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.

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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.

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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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Whicker: Canelo Alvarez survives and advances, but to where?

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

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  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • (In white trunks) Canelo Alvarez fights Daniel Jacobs at theT-Mobile arena in Las Vegas Saturday April 4,2019. Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer
    fight still going

  • Canelo Alvarez, left, of Mexico, hits Daniel Jacobs during a middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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LAS VEGAS – On Tuesday, Danny Jacobs said it out loud, into microphones and on videotape.

He intended to bring 175 pounds, “at least,” into the ring at T-Mobile Arena Saturday night, to confront Canelo Alvarez.

This didn’t mean Jacobs wouldn’t honor 160 pounds when he stepped onto the scale Friday. He did. But there was a little-known clause that required Canelo and Jacobs to gain no more than 10 pounds by Saturday morning. Jacobs blasted right through that one, He was 173.6 pounds, according to ESPN.com.

And yet the show went on. Jacobs shrugged off the risk of $750,000 in fines, on a night when he was scheduled to make at least $10 million from DAZN, the subscription streaming service, and $2.2 million in purse money.

So basically this was a battle of light heavyweights, thanks to the sudden hydrations that can’t be healthy for the fighters who go through it, and are a clear danger to the fighters who meet those fighters.

Fortunately the fighters were good enough to silence most of that concern. Canelo was good early, Jacobs good late, and Canelo improved his record to 52-1-2- with a unanimous decision, thus taking Jacobs’ IBF belt and adding it to the two he already owns.

Two judges gave Canelo a two-point victory, the other had him winning by three. It was definitely rematch-worry.

This is a worn-out soapbox by now, but why even have weight classes under these circumstances? It was reminiscent of the rainy night in March of 2018 when Scott Quigg ballooned to welterweight levels in a featherweight clash with Oscar Valdez. Quigg broke Valdez’s job but Valdez won the fight

Fighters swell themselves up with impunity because they know, at least in the big fights, that cancellations are impossible. If promoters or managers or trainers are penalized, maybe that changes things. Or maybe the 160-pound belt should be customized so only a 160-pounder can wear it.

All week he has talked of  “writing my own history.” He can write it with a gold-plated fountain pen after he signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN. He has nine left after the Jacobs fight. One of those is presumably against Golovin in September, although Canelo has said Triple-G needs to recover one of the three belts that Canelo lifted from him last September if he wants a third crack at the champ.

Canelo probably doesn’t have enough worthy opponents to pile up the  record that Ruben Olivares and Julio Cesar Chavez did, and thus will have a hard time rising into anybody’s list of top 10 fighters from Mexico. But these are different days. Chavez fought 17 times in 1991-93. In today’s ethic and economy, Canelo is the bulwark of the sport.

Canelo fought all styles as he ascended through the welterweight division and conquered the problems presented by Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. Lara was supposed to be too slick and he wasn’t. James Kirkland was supposed to be dangerous, and he fell like a canned ham tossed from David Letterman’s rooftop.

Miguel Cotto had all the passion and experience in the world and Canelo won a decisive decision. And Golovkin was considered an uncontrollable monster when he climbed into the ring with Canelo. You can argue with the judgments of both those fights, but Canelo at the very least pulled up the shade and exposed Golovkin as human.

Among the lead-ins was Joseph Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, the ex-Olympian who pushed his record to 29-1 with a 10th-round knockout of Freddy Fonseca. It was Diaz’s second fight at 130 pounds and puts him in a distinguished mix. Miguel Berchelt puts up his WBA felt against Francisco Vargas next week, and Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis also hold championships. “Tevin, where you at?” Diaz called out.

Fonseca landed only 13 percent of his punches against Diaz, and his corner threw in the towel when Diaz’s body shots drew no resistance.

Then Vergil Ortiz, boxing’s fast-rising version of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., blasted Mauricio Herrera to the deck at the end of the 2nd round and meticulously finished him in the 3rd with a flawless right hand to the chin. Ortiz, 21, is 13-0 with 13 knockouts, and Herrera was stopped for the first time in his 33 fights.

“I’m usually not satisfied with my performance but I’d have to say I’m satisfied tonight,” Ortiz said, smiling.

This was a welterweight fight for him but he said he wanted to drop to 140 and pick up a world championship there.

If he does, it is hoped he defends it against equals.

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Canelo wins unanimous, but close, decision

LAS VEGAS — On Tuesday, Danny Jacobs said it out loud, into microphones and on videotape.

He intended to bring 175 pounds, “at least,” into the ring at T-Mobile Arena Saturday night, to confront Canelo Alvarez.

This didn’t mean Jacobs wouldn’t honor 160 pounds when he stepped onto the scale Friday. He did. But there was a little-known clause that required Canelo and Jacobs to gain no more than 10 pounds by Saturday morning. Jacobs blasted right through that one, He was 173.6 pounds, according to ESPN.com.

And yet the show went on. Jacobs shrugged off the risk of $750,000 in fines, on a night when he was scheduled to make at least $10 million from DAZN, the subscription streaming service, and $2.2 million in purse money.

So basically this was a battle of light heavyweights, thanks to the sudden hydrations that can’t be healthy for the fighters who go through it, and are a clear danger to the fighters who meet those fighters.

Fortunately the fights were good enough to silence most of that concern. Canelo was good early, Jacobs good late, and Canelo improved his record to 52-1-2- with a unanimous decision, thus taking Jacobs’ IBF belt and adding it to the two he already owns.

Two judges gave Canelo a two-point victory, the other had him winning by three. It was definitely rematch-worry.

This is a worn-out soapbox by now, but why even have weight classes under these circumstances? It was reminiscent of the rainy night in March of 2018 when Scott Quigg ballooned to welterweight levels in a featherweight clash with Oscar Valdez. Quigg broke Valdez’s job but Valdez won the fight

Fighters swell themselves up with impunity because they know, at least in the big fights, that cancellations are impossible. If promoters or managers or trainers are penalized, maybe that changes things. Or maybe the 160-pound belt should be customized so only a 160-pounder can wear it.

All week he has talked of  “writing my own history.” He can write it with a gold-plated fountain pen after he signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN. He has nine left after the Jacobs fight. One of those is presumably against Golovin in September, although Canelo has said Triple-G needs to recover one of the three belts that Canelo lifted from him last September if he wants a third crack at the champ.

Canelo probably doesn’t have enough worthy opponents to pile up the  record that Ruben Olivares and Julio Cesar Chavez did, and thus will have a hard time rising into anybody’s list of top 10 fighters from Mexico. But these are different days. Chavez fought 17 times in 1991-93. In today’s ethic and economy, Canelo is the bulwark of the sport.

Canelo fought all styles as he ascended through the welterweight division and conquered the problems presented by Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. Lara was supposed to be too slick and he wasn’t. James Kirkland was supposed to be dangerous, and he fell like a canned ham tossed from David Letterman’s rooftop.

Miguel Cotto had all the passion and experience in the world and Canelo won a decisive decision. And Golovkin was considered an uncontrollable monster when he climbed into the ring with Canelo. You can argue with the judgments of both those fights, but Canelo at the very least pulled up the shade and exposed Golovkin as human.

Among the lead-ins was Joseph Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, the ex-Olympian who pushed his record to 29-1 with a 10th-round knockout of Freddy Fonseca. It was Diaz’s second fight at 130 pounds and puts him in a distinguished mix. Miguel Berchelt puts up his WBA felt against Francisco Vargas next week, and Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis also hold championships. “Tevin, where you at?” Diaz called out.

Fonseca landed only 13 percent of his punches against Diaz, and his corner threw in the towel when Diaz’s body shots drew no resistance.

Then Vergil Ortiz, boxing’s fast-rising version of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., blasted Mauricio Herrera to the deck at the end of the 2nd round and meticulously finished him in the 3rd with a flawless right hand to the chin. Ortiz, 21, is 13-0 with 13 knockouts, and Herrera was stopped for the first time in his 33 fights.

“I’m usually not satisfied with my performance but I’d have to say I’m satisfied tonight,” Ortiz said, smiling. This was a welterweight fight for him but he said he wanted to drop to 140 and pick up a world championship there.

If he does, it is hoped he defends it against equals.

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Manny Pacquiao wins 60th career fight with seventh-round knockout

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, left, shields himself from Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in the 7th round. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao, center, of the Philippines listens to his trainer during WBA World welterweight title bout against Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory with a seventh-round knockout of Argentinian Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

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  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, fights Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in the 7th round. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao, left, of the Philippines fights Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after technical knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina falls after receiving a punch by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years.(AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines prays before his fight with Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, left, lands a left at Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, strikes Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse, left, of Argentina falls after receiving a punch by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Filipino boxing legend Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, strikes Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, left, celebrates after defeating Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Filipino boxing legend Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career.(AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines poses after defeating Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career.

Pacquiao, 39, said his “convincing victory” in the World Boxing Association welterweight title fight, his 12th championship win, showed age isn’t a barrier.

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He rebounded from his disappointing loss last year to Australian Jeff Horn and his victory could extend his boxing career that had taken a backseat to his political life as a Filipino senator.

“This is it. I am back in boxing,” Pacquiao said. “I am not done. I’m still there.”

“It’s just a matter of time. You have to rest and get it back and that’s what I did.”

He said training with new coach Buboy Fernandes, after parting ways with longtime trainer Freddie Roach in the lead up to the fight, was effective and that he felt in control from the start.

“At the beginning of round one, I had in my mind that I could control the fight but our strategy is to be patient, to take time, don’t rush, don’t be careless like we did before,” he said.

His aggression knocked Matthysse down on one knee in the third and fifth rounds. A third knock down in the seventh round led Matthysse to spit out his mouthpiece, causing a frenzy among Pacquiao fans in the stadium.

“I am not boasting but…I think he’s hurting from my punches. Every punch that I throw, he’s hurt. I think he’s scared of my punches,” Pacquiao said.

Matthysse, who won 36 out of 39 matches by knockout, hailed Pacquiao as a “great fighter, a great legend” and said he will take a break after his loss.

“This is part of boxing. You win some, you lose some,” he said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also attended the fight, the biggest boxing match in the country since the 1975 heavyweight clash between Muhammad Ali and Australian Joe Bugner.

“I would like to congratulate Senator Manny Pacquiao for giving us pride and bringing the Filipino nation together once more,” said Duterte, who flew to Malaysia earlier for the bout ahead of an official visit.

Duterte said in a statement that Pacquiao has proven himself again as “one of the greatest boxers of all time” and that the win will cement his legacy in the sport.

Scores of screaming Filipino fans in the stadium waved flags and chanted “Manny Manny” throughout the match. Pacquiao’s rise to fame from an impoverished rural boy to one of the world’s wealthiest sportsmen over his 23-year career has made him a national hero.

Pacquaio said he will return to his senator work for now but won’t be hanging up the gloves just yet.

“I am addicted to boxing. I really love to fight and bring honor to my country. That’s my heart’s desire,” he added.

In the other title fights, Filipino Jhack Tepora defeated Edivaldo Oretga of Mexico with a knockout to win the interim WBA featherweight title. Venezuela’s Carlos Canizales defended his WBA world light flyweight title against China’s Lu Bin, stopping him from making history by becoming the first boxer to win a major world title in just two career fights. South African Moruti Mthalane won a close twelve round unanimous decision over Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem to capture the IBF flyweight title.

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Santa Cruz fights off another challenge by Mares in another Staples Center classic

  • Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

  • 6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

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  • Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

  • 6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

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LOS ANGELES — Somewhere in Oxnard there’s a drawing board, and at some point Abner Mares and trainer Robert Garcia will drop by.

They diagrammed this rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.with a new protractor and compass. They cruised through two fights, calibrating their message for the fight they knew was coming.

Mares stepped into the Staples Center ring Saturday night and did everything chapter and verse, jumping in, jumping out, even opening a cut beside Santa Cruz’s eye in the eighth round. And as the fight hurtled to a conclusion, it was Santa Curz, not Mares, who was creating clinches and hanging on.

The cooking instructions were followed and still the souffle collapsed. Santa Cruz was a clearer winner, on the judges’ cards, than he was in 2015.

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He took a unanimous decision and held onto the WBA featherweight championship. In doing so, he and Mares captivated a crowd of 12,505 that recognizes the two L.A. kids embody the class and passion that should be the bloodstream of boxing.

Put it this way: When Antonio Santa Cruz, Leo’s brother, got up to speak at Thursday’s press conference, he said he was uncomfortable speaking English before a crowd. So he found a translator, right there up front. It was Mares.

But no matter what Mares and Garcia can concoct for a third fight, they won’t be able to shorten Santa Cruz’s arms or elongate Mares’. That’s a three-inch height advantage that Santa Cruz knows how to use.

Although Mares was more judicious in how he attacked the taller, thinner champion, he still couldn’t get to the barrel of the bat without getting hit. When Santa Cruz began emphasizing his jab in the fifth round and keeping Mares on the perimeter, that’s when this fight came close to a turning point.

“It’s always a problem getting on the inside,” Mares said. “I fought a hard, close fight. Without a doubt, Leo is the number one featherweight in the world. I take my hat off to him.”

Well, there is some doubt in the corner of Gary Russell Jr., who is the WBC champ and is coming off a win over Jo Jo Diaz. But Russell enjoys life inside the Beltway and might be hard to persuade.

The other champion in the division is Oscar Valdez, who is part of the Top Rank operation and suffered a broken jaw as he defeated Scott Quigg on a rainy night in March. “He’s the future of the division,” Mares had said, but Valdez will have a limited future if he continues to suffer the abuse he did in the victories over Quigg and Miguel Marriaga.

Plus, Santa Cruz does have a rubber match to settle with Carl Frampton, who beat Santa Cruz in Brooklyn but lost to him in Las Vegas.

“Valdez has a lot of power,” Santa Cruz said. “I’d have to be careful with him. Russell is fast. But I’ve trained against faster guys before. Timing beats speed. If you can be first against guys like that you can do OK. And Diaz hurt him when he hit him with body shots. He quit doing it, but I would do it the whole fight.”.

But we could also have Chapter 3, even though Santa Cruz won the first two. The consensus was that No. 2 was a more compelling fight than No. 1, and yet Santa Cruz won it more decisively. He was judged the winner by seven, four and two points on the cards, after he won on only two cards in the first bout.

Santa Cruz threw 1,061 punches, Mares 931. That’s a full night’s work. Three years ago Santa Cruz threw 1,074 punches and Mares 971. In this fight the champ hit Mares with 36.5 percent of his power shots and got hit with only 30 percent of Mares’.

Of course, a six-point margin does not automatically mean the judge (Zachary Young, in this case) thought it was a romp. Every round was its own short story. You can win most of the close rounds and make the score more decisive than the fight was.

It’s fair to say that neither Santa Cruz nor Mares fought one unchallenged round. If there was something close to resolution it happened in Round 7 when Santa Cruz landed an uppercut and a right and then rocked Mares with double left hooks. Mares lost his balance temporarily and had to scramble for survival against the ropes. Then, in the eighth, he rallied and got to Santa Cruz to bleed.

“He knows how to survive,” Santa Cruz said. “He fought smarter this time, so I couldn’t just stand in front of him. I had to box him a little different, too.”

But there’s mental toughness as well, and Santa Cruz showed it Friday during the weigh-in.

His dad Jose is the only trainer he has had. Jose is the guy you’ve seen in the corner, with the black cowboy hat and the mustache. Jose has also been fighting for cancer for years. He was feeling good through most of the week, but on Friday he had severe pain in his neck and back. He went to another room and lay down during the weigh-in.

“He knows I worry about him,” Leo said. “So he tells me he’s OK, but I can tell when he isn’t feeling well. I didn’t think I’d see him in the corner, but there he was.

“He takes every opponent and shows me what I can do against him. He’s a hard man, a smart man.”

Santa Cruz’s ribs look more visible with each fight and you wonder how long he can remain an effective 126-pounder. But it would be a shame to leave the featherweights with all that unfinished business, and one more tasty leftover.

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Golovkin says he wants Canelo. Martirosyan says Canelo doesn’t want that

  • Gennady Golovkin poses with his belts after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in a middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin poses with his belts after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in a middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Vanes Martirosyan reacts after losing to Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Vanes Martirosyan reacts after losing to Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Vanes Martirosyan, right, throws a right at Gennady Golovkin during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Vanes Martirosyan, right, throws a right at Gennady Golovkin during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, tries to avoid a right from Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, tries to avoid a right from Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, right, is embraced by Vanes Martirosyan after Golovkin their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, right, is embraced by Vanes Martirosyan after Golovkin their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, right, shakes hands with Vanes Martirosyan after their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, right, shakes hands with Vanes Martirosyan after their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin stands in a corner after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin stands in a corner after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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CARSON — Wherever Canelo Alvarez was on Saturday night, his message light was burning brightly.

Gennady Golovkin invited him to meet him inside the ring once more. “Of course he is still the priority,” Golovkin said.

Vanes Martirosyan also had a message for Canelo.

“Run,” he said.

Martirosyan was still rearranging himself after Golovkin bludgeoned him to the canvas at StubHub Center, late in the second round. It was hard for him to sort out the shots, since they all felt the same.

“He’s a helluva fighter,” Martirosyan said. “All of his shots had the same power. That’s what I couldn’t believe. Each time it was like getting hit by a train.

“He surprised me at first. I thought he might try to be aggressive with his jab, but he came out trying to actually box.”

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Martirosyan actually tagged Golovkin with a left to the chops in the first rund. Asked later, Golovkin smiled and pretended to put his jaw back in place. “It’s boxing, it can happen,” he said.

But when Golovkin rocked Martirosyan in the jaw with a right uppercut, the first responders began to gather. Golovkin backed his man into the corner and teed off with nine punches, the most telling of which was a seismic left hook.

“I think the last two guys who got into the ring with him just wanted to go the distance,’ Martirosyan said, referring to Daniel Jacobs and Canelo. “If Canelo actually wants to stand in front of him instead of running, he’s going to get knocked out, too.”

He smiled. “Now I see why he wanted that beef,” Martirosyan said.

It all comes back to that, doesn’t it? Canelo tested positive for clenbuterol and still claims it was due to contaminated Mexican meat.

Golovkin was not in a joking mood as he approached this fight. He shelved that illuminating smile of his, and preferred to communicate through a Russian interpreter.

“He was edgy,” said promoter Tom Loeffler.

Evidently punching out people is theraputic. Golovkin’s light-hearted side returned after the knockout, and he was speaking English again.

The win gave Golovkin 20 consecutive successful defenses in the middleweight division, tying Bernard Hopkins’ record.

Triple-G had said that there was only “a 10 percent chance” that the proposed September rematch with Golovkin would actually happen.

Now? “Well, 10 percent is a lot,” he said.

But Loeffler and trainer Abel Sanchez said without equivocation that Canelo must enroll in the VADA drug testing program before any dotted lines are signed.

“Gennady has been tested since February,” Sanchez said. “He’s proven he’s a clean athlete. It’s time for Canelo to do the same thing.”

Loeffler said he had received assurances from the brain trust at Golden Boy Promotions that Canelo will enroll.

“But suddenly the middleweight division has opened up,” Loeffler said. “There are some good young middleweights who want to fight Gennady instead of scattering for the hills.”

If that’s true, they haven’t read their messages from Martirosyan.

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Whicker: Oscar Valdez still undefeated, no longer untested after he beats Miguel Marriaga

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT122

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT122

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, for a knockdown during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT117

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, for a knockdown during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT117

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT120

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT120

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., right, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT121

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., right, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT121

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT123

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT123

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT124

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT124

  • Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT125

    Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT125

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT127

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT127

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT130

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT130

  • Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., center, of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT118

    Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., center, of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT118

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during their WBO featherweight world championship bout on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during their WBO featherweight world championship bout on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, poses with referee Jack Reiss after defeating Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, in a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT126

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, poses with referee Jack Reiss after defeating Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, in a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT126

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CARSON — The printout says it was the 22nd pro fight for Oscar Valdez.

Actually it was his first.

The previous 21 had been scrimmages, pre-ordained victories, tightrope walks with several nets below.

A fight, by its very nature, is something bilateral and demanding and maybe a little unprecedented. When Valdez punched the clock Saturday night, it punched back.

Miguel Marriaga was the guy who barely blinked when Valdez unloaded, kept moving forward through the ill winds.

He was the one who made Valdez fight an 11th round for the first time in his career, and then a 12th round, too.

He and Valdez put on a show that was worthy of the StubHub Center tennis stadium that housed it, one that honored the boxers before them who had all their defenses stripped away and somehow found a way home. Valdez got there, winning a unanimous decision in his first defense of his WBO featherweight title. At the end he and Marriaga hugged, and a crowd of 5,179 stood in salute.

“You can’t fight in this place without expecting a knockdown,” said Jessie Magdaleno, the super-bantamweight champ who dismissed Adeilson Dos Santos in the second round. “You can’t come here without getting some bumps and bruises.”

It was a close, uncertain fight for everyone except the judges, who gave Valdez the nod by 11, nine and five points. That seemed strange and lopsided even to Manny Robles, Valdez’s trainer.

Marriaga got through Valdez’s early rush and seemed ready to take control after the halfway point. He was moving Valdez around the ring, slowing down his pace, and landing enough fire of his own. He has only lost once, and that was to Nicolas Walters on a night when Walters was over the featherweight limit at the weigh-in.

“I was scolding Oscar,” Robles said. “We lost a round, maybe the fifth or the sixth, and I said, kid, you lost that one and now we’re heading into the second half of the fight. I didn’t know what to expect. What was he going to be like after the 10th round? These are the championship rounds.”

Valdez seemed to answer that question with a left jab and then a big left hook, thrown off-balance, that put Marriaga down. But Valdez was overeager, and nearly exhausted himself trying to finish it, and Marriaga got his bearings and had Valdez backing up and gasping when that bell rang. Marriaga also held his own in the 11th and 12th.

When it was over, Robles went to the opposite corner and told Marriaga, “You’ve got everything it takes to be a world champion. You’re a great fighter.”

But then Marriaga was saying approximately the same thing to Valdez.

“The only other time I went 12 rounds was in sparring,” Valdez said, the price of the fight now visible in purple, beneath his eyes.

“I learned I’ve got to pace myself more. Maybe go back to the gym and work on bobbing and weaving a little more. You never stop learning. I didn’t listen to my trainer a couple of times. I’m just thankful I won the fight.”

Before Saturday, Valdez’s longest fight was a 10-round decision over Ruben Tamayo, also at StubHub two years ago. The next five fights totaled 21 rounds. Valdez beat quality fighters, like Evgeny Gradovich and Matias Rueda, but Marriaga was really his introduction to top-tier boxing, to nights of definition.

Even then, Marriaga never could make Valdez pay for missing home run right hands, and he didn’t have the one-punch power to make Valdez shiver. But you can be assured Valdez’s next fight won’t be this arduous, and it won’t be soon either.

Most likely, Valdez will fight a lightly qualified opponent in a homecoming bout in Tucson, where he went to high school. Then the plan is to fight someone like Scott Quigg, the Brit who lost a split decision to Carl Frampton and fights on the Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko card in a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Quigg is now trained by Freddie Roach and would challenge Valdez. But let’s get real.

With Valdez training at The Rock Gym in Carson, the L.A. area has three of the world’s top fighters in boxing’s deepest division.

Valdez, 26, should be fighting either Abner Mares or Leo Santa Cruz, after they fight each other for the second time, and it should happen at either Staples Center or The Forum. The fact that it won’t happen, at least not initially, is another sad victory for alphabet politics.

But if such stalemates give Valdez time to get better, maybe that’s good.

“I didn’t like how he reacted after he got the knockdown,” Robles said. “He started trying to bang with the guy. I told him, take your time, set things up, go back to boxing. He didn’t box enough in the last two rounds either. I said, why are you letting yourself get hit? Don’t be one-dimensional and try to chop his head off.”

Mistakes are fine when you survive them. They become lessons.

“It’s nice to know what you have,” Robles said. “After this fight, I know I got a guy with a great chin who can really crack. When you have those two things, you know you have the total package.

“And I thought he won by four or five rounds. The jab won him the fight, in the end. He was the better, more well-rounded fighter. That was the whole game plan. Sometimes you need to go into the deep waters.”

Robles smiled.

“If boxing was for everyone, the gym would be full of fighters,” he said. “This ain’t baseball, baby.”

It wasn’t, even though it felt like Opening Night.

Read more about Whicker: Oscar Valdez still undefeated, no longer untested after he beats Miguel Marriaga This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Orange County Shredding Service

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