UFC 251: Usman, Volkanovski, Yan leave Fight Island with belts

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kamaru Usman retained his welterweight title with a smothering victory over short-notice challenger Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 on Sunday.

Alexander Volkanovski retained his featherweight title with a narrow split decision over Max Holloway, and Petr Yan won the vacant UFC bantamweight championship with a fifth-round stoppage victory over José Aldo on Yas Island, the UAE tourist destination turned into a secure bubble by the UFC during the coronavius pandemic.

Former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas avenged her loss to Jéssica Andrade with a split-decision win in their rematch on the UFC’s so-called “Fight Island.” The mixed martial arts promotion will host four shows this month at the arena, with more expected in the upcoming months at its haven from the coronavirus.

Usman (17-1) earned his 16th straight MMA victory and defended his belt for the second time with a cerebral, technical performance against the 35-year-old Masvidal (35-14), who gallantly accepted his first UFC title shot on six days’ notice when Gilbert Burns tested positive for the coronavirus.

“(Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman said. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking the fight on short notice, but all these guys are preparing for one guy, and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to make a mental shift. I had a completely different game plan.”

Masvidal was eager for a knockout, and the former backyard brawler came out swinging in an exciting first round. But while Masvidal’s wind faded, Usman coolly took charge with wrestling takedowns, foot stomps and judicious strikes mixed with superior conditioning.

Two judges scored it 50-45 for Usman, and a third had it 49-46.

Some fans might have booed Usman’s strategy, but there were no fans inside the temporary arena. UFC 251 began well before dawn Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi to meet the time demands of the lucrative North American pay-per-view audience, and the sun rose as the card progressed.

Volkanovski (22-1) earned his 19th consecutive MMA victory since 2013 by a razor-thin margin, winning 48-47 on two of the three cards when his leg kicks and takedowns earned the decision over Holloway’s overall striking game.

“It was a tough fight,” Volkanovski said. “He stood there and didn’t really take a backward step. I couldn’t use the kicks as much as I liked. I knew I had to win that last round. It’s tough. He’s a gamer. We’re both hard workers, but I got the job done.”

The Australian champion won his belt last December with a virtuoso technical performance against Holloway (21-6), who had reigned atop the division for the previous three years.

In the rematch, Holloway showed off another level of his superb striking skills while weathering dozens more leg kicks from Volkanovski, who relied largely on that strike to win the first bout. Holloway largely controlled the first two rounds, but Volkanovski increased his output starting in the third round and added a few takedowns to bolster his case with the judges.

Three title belts were on the line on the same card for only the sixth time in UFC history, and Yan (15-1) claimed the first one by persevering for a beating of Aldo (28-7), the former featherweight champion dethroned by Conor McGregor in 2015.

Yan weathered an inspired start by Aldo, and eventually established his dominance with superior striking. After Yan battered a bloody Aldo into a turtled position on the canvas in the fifth round, referee Leon Roberts allowed the fight to continue for an alarming amount of time before stopping it with 1:36 left.

“I expected it to be a hard fight,” Yan said through an interpreter. “That was our plan, to get him tired early on, and then in the third round, start attacking.”

Aldo has lost three straight fights and six of his last nine, but he caused problems for Yan early on until the younger Russian took over.

Namajunas (9-4) returned from a 14-month break since Andrade (20-8) claimed her title with an upset victory, surprising the champ with a body slam after Namajunas dominated the early fight.

Namajunas never allowed an opportunity for Andrade to finish her in the rematch, dominating the first two rounds with her slick striking and fluid movement. Andrade rallied in the third and badly damaged Namajunas’ nose and left eye, but Namajunas won 29-28 on two judges’ scorecards.

“I was just in the right state of mind,” Namajunas said. “That’s everything. Early on in the fight, I was doing great. Then I think she hit the desperation button and started really unloading. She caught me a couple of times, but I just stayed strong.”

If her nose heals up quickly, Namajunas could get the next title shot at Zhang Weili, who took the belt from Andrade late last year.

Brazilian flyweight Amanda Ribas kicked off the pay-per-view card with a first-round armbar submission victory over Paige VanZant. Ribas (10-1) improved to 4-0 in the UFC with a swift dismantling of the popular VanZant (8-5), whose UFC contract is up after four losses in her last six bouts.

Jiri Procházka wrapped up the non-PPV undercard with a spectacular knockout of former light heavyweight title contender Volkan Oezdemir in the opening minute of the second round.

Procházka (27-3-1) is a Czech veteran who has fought mostly in Japan for the past five years, and he was impressive in his hyped UFC debut. Procházka lowered his hands, stuck out his chin and boldly dared Oezdemir to hit him in the first round, and he ended the fight with a head kick followed by a punch that rendered his Swiss opponent unconscious.

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UFC 249 ushers in fan-free, mask-filled era of sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kicks, punches and grunts echoed through the empty arena. Coaches, commentators and camera clicks resonated like never before. Blood, sweat, swollen eyelids and face masks signaled the return of UFC, the first major sporting event to resume since the coronavirus shuttered much of the country for nearly two months.

UFC 249 ushered in a new look for sports, too. One without fans and amid several safety precautions.

It was definitely different — two fighters adjusted their approaches because of what they heard announcers say — and a welcome reprieve for a sports-craved country that went nearly eight weeks with few live events.

“We did this for you, to bring sports back,” fighter Tony Ferguson told fans following his loss in the main event.

Five hours after President Trump congratulated UFC for restarting the sports world, Justin Gaethje stunned heavily favored Ferguson (26-4) in the finale. Gaethje earned a TKO in the fifth and final round of the headliner that was deemed an interim lightweight title bout. It essentially gives Gaethje (22-2) the right to fight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov next. Nurmagomedov was unable to fight this weekend because of travel restrictions.

Gaethje flipped over the top of the cage and back in following the biggest victory of his career. He then screamed repeatedly.

“I want the real one,” he said as he threw down the interim belt. “There’s no other fight I want right now.”

The stacked card saw 33-year-old Henry Cejudo, with blood gushing from his forehead and running down his chest, defend his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz and then announce his retirement in the middle of the octagon.

“I really do want to walk away, but money talks,” said Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in 2008. “It gets stagnant. I want to leave on top.”

The event also included heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou pummeling another opponent, former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy winning for the sixth time in eight fights and former welterweight champion and fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone losing his fourth straight.

Trump grabbed the spotlight early. His taped message was played during ESPN’s broadcast of the undercard.

“I want to congratulate (UFC President) Dana White and the UFC,” Trump said. “They’re going to have a big match. We love it. We think it’s important. Get the sports leagues back. Let’s play. Do the social distancing and whatever else you have to do. We need sports. We want our sports back.”

UFC 249 was originally scheduled for April 18 in New York, but was postponed in hopes of helping slow the spread of COVID-19.

The mixed martial arts behemoth will hold three shows in eight days in Jacksonville, where state officials deemed professional sports with a national audience exempt from a stay-at-home order as long as the location is closed to the public.

The UFC came up with a 25-page document to address health and safety protocols, procedures that led to Jacaré Souza testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall was canceled that night. Souza’s two cornermen also tested as positive, the UFC said.

All three men left the host hotel to self-isolate elsewhere, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and provide assistance with necessary treatments.

The positive results surely increased the focus on the event. Every other sport is watching closely to see how it plays out.

White didn’t want to postpone any fights. He tried to host the event on tribal land in California and still hopes to create a “Fight Island” for future cards.

He settled for Jacksonville for at least a week — without fans and with social-distancing rules in place.

Judges and broadcasters worked from separate tables. Fighters, trainers, referees, judges, UFC staff and even outside media had to undergo COVID-19 testing to get inside Veterans Memorial Arena.

Many of those in attendance Saturday wore masks and gloves, although several were seemingly exempt from the mandate. Referees, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, other officials inside the octagon and the ring girl were unmasked. Play-by-play commentator Joe Rogan, who initially was supposed to interview winners remotely, ended up doing them inside the octagon.

The cage floor was disinfected between bouts, and the padded parts of the octagon were wiped down between rounds.

Without fans, though, sounds that usually would be muted or completely drowned out filled the desolate arena. Fighters said it affected their bouts. Hardy and Carla Esparza said they altered their approach after hearing commentators during early rounds.

“It’s hard to assess without the crowd,” Anthony Pettis said after beating Cerrone in a wild welterweight fight. “When I land stuff, I hear the crowd and know it was a good one. This time, there was no crowd. I saw his head pop, but there was nothing behind it, so it’s hard to tell.”

Also on the card:

— Cejudo (16-2) caught Cruz (22-3) with a right knee to the face that sent him reeling to the canvas. Cejudo then delivered nearly a dozen unanswered blows before the referee stopped it. Cruz argued it never should have been called because he was working to get back on his feet. Cejudo surprisingly ended his career a few minutes later, saying he wants to spend more time with his family.

— Ngannou knocked out fellow heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds. Ngannou rushed Rozenstruik and delivered a flurry of blows that left Rozenstruik so woozy he had trouble getting into his slides long after the fight ended. It was Ngannou’s fourth consecutive victory totaling less than 3 minutes in the octagon.

— Calvin Kattar (21-4) stopped Jeremy Stephens (28-18) in the second round after consecutive elbow blows, one standing and another on the ground.

— Hardy (6-2) celebrated a unanimous decision over Yorgan De Castro (6-1) in a heavyweight bout.

— “Showtime” Pettis (23-10) beat Cerrone (36-15) in an unanimous decision. Pettis and Cerrone last fought in 2013. Pettis won that one as well. Cerrone has dropped four in a row, including losses to Conor McGregor, Gaethje and Ferguson.

— Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik (59-13-1) beat Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) in a heavyweight bout featuring a pair of 42-year-olds. It was a split decision that included more toe-to-toe blows than ground grappling.

— Carla Esparza (16-6) edged Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (17-8) in a split decision. It was Esparza’s third straight victory in the straw-weight division.

— Vicente Luque (18-7-1) won for the seventh time in eight fights when he beat Niko Price (14-4) in a bloodbath. The fight was ruled a TKO in the third round after Price developed a nasty cut above his right eye. Luque was ahead on all three cards when it was called.

— Featherweight Bryce Mitchell (13-1) defeated fellow grappler Charles Rosa (12-4) in a unanimous decision.

— Spann (18-5) extended his winning streak to eight by beating veteran Sam Alvey (33-14) in a split decision.

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Jacaré Souza out of UFC 249 after testing positive for COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — UFC President Dana White still wants “Fight Island.”

He’s temporarily settling for a peninsula — and had to call off a bout after a fighter tested positive for the coronavirus.

UFC 249 will serve as the first major sporting event to take place since the pandemic shut down much of the country nearly two months ago. The bouts Saturday night in Jacksonville — the main event is set for pay-per-view — are expected to draw a large viewing audience considering the sports-craved nation has seemingly grown tired of replays and video game events.

There’s nothing virtual about the reality of getting punched in the face.

“Right now there is no Olympics. There is no Wimbledon. There is no NBA drafts. No NFL drafts,” said lightweight contender Tony Ferguson. “There is no (expletive) tennis. There is no soccer, hockey. There is no baseball. This what we bring to the table man and we are going out there and do our best and we are going to keep sports alive.”

More like bring sports back to life.

Ferguson (25-3) and fellow lightweight contender Justin Gaethje (21-2) will headline the mixed martial arts card behind closed doors at Veterans Memorial Arena.

“This is going to bring a sense of normalcy to people,” Gaethje said. “Proud to be a part of it, you know the opportunity to inspire. People need to be inspired right now. They need to not let themselves become depressed, emotional because they can’t control what is going on right now.

“We have got to ride it through, and they need to be inspired in a way and we can do that. We have the opportunity.”

Jacaré Souza, tested positive Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall was called off. Souza’s two cornermen also tested as positive, the UFC said in a statement.

“All three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment,” the UFC said.

The UFC is returning after an involuntary eight-week break that upended White’s desire to keep fighting amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The series is holding three shows in eight days in a fan-free arena in Florida, where state officials deemed professional sports with a national audience exempt from a stay-at-home order as long as “the location is closed to the general public.”

The UFC came up with a 25-page document to address health and safety protocols. UFC executives and physicians consulted regulatory officials and outside experts to develop its procedures, which include testing everyone working the event.

Those in attendance, perhaps even referees, will have to wear masks and gloves. The cage floor, inevitably sprinkled with sweat and blood, will be disinfected regularly.

“It is going to be much more of an intimate situation, as weird as that sounds,” Gaethje said. “The fans are going to get to hear the shots when we land our shots. They are going to hear the breathing. They are going to hear the talking from the coaches. … I can’t wait to watch this fight when it is over because I know that it cannot disappoint.”

The undercard will be broadcast on ESPN, whose most recent live sports have been reduced to Korean baseball and cornhole.

Other fights on the card include:

—Henry Cejudo (15-2) will defend his UFC bantamweight champion against former titleholder Dominick Cruz (22-2).

—Francis Ngannou (14-3) fights undefeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0) in a heavyweight bout.

—Jeremy Stephens (28-17) and Calvin Kattar (20-4) in a matchup of featherweight contenders.

—Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy (6-2) against unbeaten Yorgan De Castro (5-0) in another heavyweight bout.

—And Donald Cerrone (36-14) takes on Anthony Pettis (22-10) in a welterweight fight.

UFC 249 was originally scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The next two major events — UFC 250 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and UFC 251 in Perth, Australia — already have been postponed because of the global pandemic.

White, meanwhile, continues to work to try to stage international bouts on a private island.

Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov initially was slated to fight Ferguson for the lightweight title, but travel restrictions forced Nurmagomedov to be replaced by Gaethje.

Ferguson and Gaethje will vie for the title of “interim lightweight champion.”

“You will be recognized as the No. 2 man in the world,” Ferguson said. “Khabib can’t fight right now, so these are the two baddest men on the planet in this weight class fighting this weekend for the right to call themselves the best and then ultimately challenge Khabib.

“I think we are fighting for the opportunity to represent America against Khabib and that is what I am fighting for.”

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Fighters see UFC 249 as chance to spread hope, inspiration

When the UFC leads North America’s major sports back into action Saturday night with a pay-per-view show in Florida, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje know they can’t do anything tentatively.

“We’ve got to go out there and keep sports alive,” Ferguson said Tuesday after he flew into Jacksonville and was quickly tested for COVID-19.

The 24 fighters at UFC 249 all realize they added another risk to their already hazardous professions when they agreed to compete amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. While the UFC has strict safety protocols in place, no one can be certain of the dangers involved when the mixed martial arts promotion returns from an eight-week break with three shows in eight days in Jacksonville.

Ferguson and Gaethje both believe their risks are outweighed by the sporting rewards they will reap and the example they will provide when they fight for the interim UFC lightweight title in a fan-free arena.

“We’re going to bring a sense of normalcy to people,” Gaethje said in a phone interview. “I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s the opportunity to inspire. People need to be inspired right now. They need to not let themselves become depressed (or) emotional because they can’t control what’s going on right now. We’ve got to ride it through. They need to be inspired, and we can do that.”

“I honestly had no reservations,” Ferguson added. “Fighting is very dangerous, so I think we’ll be just fine.”

The UFC never wanted to stop competition while the pandemic grew, and president Dana White was never short of fighters willing to compete while he scrambled desperately to keep holding fight cards amid the unprecedented public health crisis. Now that White has found a state and an athletic commission willing to host him, UFC 249 will be followed by additional shows on May 13, May 16 and probably May 23 from Jacksonville.

“There’s not very often you’re going to get to fight for a world title, much less during a pandemic when there’s zero sports going on and you’re going to be the only one on TV,” Gaethje said. “You have to face your fears. You’ve got to go out there and take the chances when they’re presented. … We get to put paychecks in our own pocket, and we get to put a paycheck in every UFC employee’s pocket that’s going to work this event, and we get to inspire people to not give up right now.”

While many athletes around the world have voiced concerns about being compelled to play their sports in such uncertain times, the UFC’s fighters — who typically don’t get paid unless they compete — have been almost unanimously eager to return.

Even seasoned veterans like ex-champion Dominick Cruz have jumped at the opportunity despite being well aware of the health risks involved. Like Gaethje, Cruz sees UFC 249 as an opportunity to overcome fear.

“Realistically, anybody can contract this virus,” said Cruz, who will return from a three-year cage absence to fight bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo on Saturday. “I think that’s partially the point, is understanding that anybody out there can get this, but you can’t just freeze up when you see something that’s scary. You’ve got to take the precautions, be as safe as possible, but live your life. That’s what I’m doing.”

Some MMA fighters prefer to train in busy gyms with several teammates, while others work out with only their coaches and sparring partners. The necessary changes over the past two months haven’t bothered Cejudo, an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler and champion of two UFC divisions.

“I really don’t know the difference between the COVID-19 quarantine and me in my training camp,” Cejudo said. “I’m a professional. I train each and every day. I try to do everything right. This whole quarantine, I think by the time the U.S. comes back together, I’m just not going to know the difference.”

Cruz feels particularly strongly about the symbolic importance of the UFC’s return to competition. The former 135-pound champion wants to reclaim the belt to use it as an instrument for social change, even citing Muhammad Ali’s activism against the Vietnam War as his inspiration.

“What’s the value of championship belts or Olympic gold medals when there’s 33 million Americans that just filed for unemployment benefits, that can’t see their families since mid-March?” Cruz said. “There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 coming, probably no end in sight. So I’ve been (contemplating) the question of what’s the value of belts or even Olympic gold medals unless you use it to make a difference in the lives and the service of humanity?”

But after listening to Cruz’s passionate thoughts about the state of the world during their joint phone interview, Cejudo brought the discussion back to usual MMA levels of discourse.

“You’d better sign up for those unemployment checks, because I’m taking you out,” Cejudo said. “Dominick, you sound like Miss Universe.”

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Photos: UFC 245 in photos

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Colby Covington rests on the cage after being defeated by Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman by TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, red, defeats Colby Covington via TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Alexander Volkanovski, blue, defeats Max Holloway, red, via decision to become the new UFC Featherweight Championduring during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, red, defeated Germaine de Randamie, blue, via unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlon Moraes , red, defeats Jose Aldo blue, by decision during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Petr Yan, red, defeats Urijah Faber blue, via knockout during their bantamweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Geoff Neal, red, defeats Mike Perry blue, via round-one knockout during their welterweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Geoff Neal, red, defeats Mike Perry blue, via round-one knockout during their welterweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Geoff Neal, red, defeats Mike Perry blue, via round-one knockout during their welterweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Geoff Neal, red, defeats Mike Perry blue, via round-one knockout during their welterweight bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Irene Aldana, blue, defeats Ketlen Vieira, red, via knockout during their bout at UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Omari Akhmedov, blue, defeats Ian Heinisch, red, via decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Omari Akhmedov, blue, defeats Ian Heinisch, red, via decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Omari Akhmedov, blue, defeats Ian Heinisch, red, via decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Omari Akhmedov, blue, defeats Ian Heinisch, red, via decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Omari Akhmedov, blue, defeats Ian Heinisch, red, via decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Matt Brown, red, defeats Ben Saunders blue, via second-round TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Matt Brown, red, defeats Ben Saunders blue, via second-round TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Chase Hooper, red, defeats Daniel Teymur, blue, via first round TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Chase Hooper, red, defeats Daniel Teymur, blue, via first round TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Chase Hooper, red, defeats Daniel Teymur, blue, via first round TKO during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Brandon Moreno, red, defeats Kai Kara-France, blue, by unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Brandon Moreno, red, defeats Kai Kara-France, blue, by unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Brandon Moreno, red, defeats Kai Kara-France, blue, by unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Brandon Moreno, red, defeats Kai Kara-France, blue, by unanimous decision during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Jessica Eye, red, defeats Viviane Araujo, blue, via unanimous decision uring UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Middleweights Punahele Soriano, red defeats Oskar Piechota, blue, with a first round knockout during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Middleweights Punahele Soriano, red defeats Oskar Piechota, blue, with a first round knockout during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Middleweights Punahele Soriano, red defeats Oskar Piechota, blue, with a first round knockout during UFC 245 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Photos from UFC 445 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Saturday, December 14, 2019. (Photos by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

 

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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: Late Night with Canelo Alvarez produces an explosive finish

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

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  • Sergey Kovalev sits in his corner between rounds against Canelo Alvarez during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Sergey Kovalev, right, lands a punch against Canelo Alvarez during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez, left, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez poses for photos after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez kisses his wife, Shannon de Lima, after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, center, stands over Sergey Kovalev as referee Russel Mora steps in after Alvarez knocked down Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. Alvarez won by knockout. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, center, stands over Sergey Kovalev as referee Russel Mora steps in after Alvarez knocked down Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. Alvarez won by knockout. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Referee Russel Mora, center, steps in after Canelo Alvarez, right, knocked out Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez connects a punch against Sergey Kovalev to knock him out during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Sergey Kovalev, left, and Canelo Alvarez exchange punches during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, left, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

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LAS VEGAS — With daylight time looming, Sergey Kovalev found himself falling back.

Had Canelo Alvarez refrained from throwing another punch, Kovalev would have likely staggered to the canvas.

But thanks to an embarrassing and ludicrous delay, Canelo had waited long enough. He drove his right hand into Kovalev’s chin, leaving no doubt after the doubt mounted through nearly 11 rounds, and took Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight championship at the MGM Grand Saturday night.

Canelo now grows to 53-1-2 with 36 knockouts. He has now won fights from 140 to 175 pounds, and he has been a champion in four divisions. He has middleweight and light-heavy belts now. He has won as an aggressor, a defender, a quick striker and, in this case, a composed stalker who was in the process of worrying his admirers before he finally broke through. He is 29 years old with no evident decay. Given the right management and continued interest, it’s difficult to imagine a known fighter stopping him.

However, it might be wise for Canelo to retreat from light heavyweight. Kovalev, 36, was not considered the top man in his class, regardless of what he and Canelo said.

Badou Jack, a former light heavy champ, admitted Saturday morning that Kovalev’s punches might carry unseen force to Canelo.

“But you gotta realize,” Jack said. “He might be Kovalev, but he’s not the Krusher anymore.”

“And the other thing is, this is the fight Canelo asked for,” said Leonard Ellerbe, who runs Mayweather Promotions. “So that ought to tell you something.”

Kovalev had a two-inch reach advantage but struggled to make the 175-pound weight on Friday. He was supposed to be prone to body shots against Canelo. Instead, he and trainer Buddy McGirt sketched out a plan and nearly took it to victory. The Krusher became the Kalculator.

Kovalev came out jabbing and never stopped. He kept his left hand in Canelo’s face, occasionally trying the body, and kept his right hand shelved to avoid giving Canelo a counter-punch opening.

Canelo kept guarding his own face, didn’t move his head much, and kept going for the one combination that might end it. He barely beat the deadline for that. In the eighth round he was alarmingly passive, and his fans began whistling and booing.

But he had a better 10th round, and one remembered that Canelo had swept the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds to steal a draw in his first fight with Gennady Golovkin. His focus was obvious when he came out for the 11th. About two minutes in, he rocked the Russian with a left hand, the first leak in the ceiling.

Canelo backed Kovalev against the ropes and fired a hard left and then a right to the side of the head. That one sent Kovalev into a slow spiral, and the right hand said goodnight.

4 X WORLD CHAMPION 🏆🏆🏆🏆pic.twitter.com/TOOV5nuLDB

— Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo) November 3, 2019

At the time Canelo was ahead by two points on two judges’ cards, and Canelo and Kovalev were tied on the third.

“That was basically it, patience,” Canelo said. “All he was doing was trying to score points. We knew it would take five or six rounds for me to get him. It was delayed a little bit, and it was tougher than we thought, but it was successful.

“He was closing up his guard and making it difficult. That made it a close fight. I did miss some punches but, in the end, that is what worked.”

According to CompuBox stats, Kovalev threw 400 more punches than Canelo, but only connected on 11 percent of his 577 attempted jabs. Kovalev landed only four power punches on Canelo’s body, and the new champ was successful on 47.9 percent of his power shots overall.

Kovalev, who rarely fails to find a scapegoat, said that he got tired after six rounds because he had fought Anthony Yarde on August 24.

“But he really is a great champion,” Kovalev said of Canelo, before he went to a local hospital as a precaution. “He came into this division fresh. I have big respect for him. He made history tonight.”

For most of America it will be history without a witness. Kovalev did not arrive in the ring until 10:08 p.m. PST. By the time he and Canelo finished, it was already Daylight Time on the East Coast. That was at least an hour after Ryan Garcia, the 21-year-old lightweight, had knocked out Romero Duno in the first round. And that’s not the prescribed way to spend that bonus hour.

The reason was silly, self-destructive and pure boxing.

ESPN was showing the UFC match between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. So DAZN, the streaming service, decided it would make the world’s best fighter and a longtime light-heavyweight champion dawdle in their locker rooms until things were finished in the octagon.

To mollify the crowd, the UFC fight was shown on the TVs inside the arena. And neither Canelo or Kovalev used the delay as an excuse.

But it was a colossal marketing failure, a backhand slap to the DAZN subscription base, and an admission that nobody involved in this product really believes in it. Would the Masters delay its telecast to accommodate the Long Drive Contest?

There were reports that DAZN actually picked up subscriptions after Masvidal and Diaz were over. That does not justify the treatment of Golden Boy’s leading man. It also wasn’t the only graceless moment. Two reporters from The Athletic were banished from ringside and forced into the upper reaches, after the website reported extensively on Canelo’s hard feelings toward Oscar De La Hoya.

Kathy Duva, who runs Main Events and promotes Kovalev, brought some dignity.

“We tried our best,” she said, “but Canelo is the best fighter in the world. Against him, you can’t survive a mistake.”

Boxing always seems to. It also never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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Late Night with Canelo Alvarez produces an explosive finish

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

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  • Sergey Kovalev sits in his corner between rounds against Canelo Alvarez during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Sergey Kovalev, right, lands a punch against Canelo Alvarez during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez, left, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez poses for photos after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez kisses his wife, Shannon de Lima, after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, center, stands over Sergey Kovalev as referee Russel Mora steps in after Alvarez knocked down Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. Alvarez won by knockout. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, center, stands over Sergey Kovalev as referee Russel Mora steps in after Alvarez knocked down Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. Alvarez won by knockout. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Referee Russel Mora, center, steps in after Canelo Alvarez, right, knocked out Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez connects a punch against Sergey Kovalev to knock him out during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, right, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Sergey Kovalev, left, and Canelo Alvarez exchange punches during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

  • Canelo Alvarez, left, lands a punch against Sergey Kovalev during a light heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

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LAS VEGAS — With daylight time looming, Sergey Kovalev found himself falling back.

Had Canelo Alvarez refrained from throwing another punch, Kovalev would have likely staggered to the canvas.

But thanks to an embarrassing and ludicrous delay, Canelo had waited long enough. He drove his right hand into Kovalev’s chin, leaving no doubt after the doubt mounted through nearly 11 rounds, and took Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight championship at the MGM Grand Saturday night.

Canelo now grows to 53-1-2 with 36 knockouts. He has now won fights from 140 to 175 pounds, and he has been a champion in four divisions. He has middleweight and light-heavy belts now. He has won as an aggressor, a defender, a quick striker and, in this case, a composed stalker who was in the process of worrying his admirers before he finally broke through. He is 29 years old with no evident decay. Given the right management and continued interest, it’s difficult to imagine a known fighter stopping him.

However, it might be wise for Canelo to retreat from light heavyweight. Kovalev, 36, was not considered the top man in his class, regardless of what he and Canelo said.

Badou Jack, a former light heavy champ, admitted Saturday morning that Kovalev’s punches might carry unseen force to Canelo.

“But you gotta realize,” Jack said. “He might be Kovalev, but he’s not the Krusher anymore.”

“And the other thing is, this is the fight Canelo asked for,” said Leonard Ellerbe, who runs Mayweather Promotions. “So that ought to tell you something.”

Kovalev had a two-inch reach advantage but struggled to make the 175-pound weight on Friday. He was supposed to be prone to body shots against Canelo. Instead, he and trainer Buddy McGirt sketched out a plan and nearly took it to victory. The Krusher became the Kalculator.

Kovalev came out jabbing and never stopped. He kept his left hand in Canelo’s face, occasionally trying the body, and kept his right hand shelved to avoid giving Canelo a counter-punch opening.

Canelo kept guarding his own face, didn’t move his head much, and kept going for the one combination that might end it. He barely beat the deadline for that. In the eighth round he was alarmingly passive, and his fans began whistling and booing.

But he had a better 10th round, and one remembered that Canelo had swept the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds to steal a draw in his first fight with Gennady Golovkin. His focus was obvious when he came out for the 11th. About two minutes in, he rocked the Russian with a left hand, the first leak in the ceiling.

Canelo backed Kovalev against the ropes and fired a hard left and then a right to the side of the head. That one sent Kovalev into a slow spiral, and the right hand said goodnight.

4 X WORLD CHAMPION 🏆🏆🏆🏆pic.twitter.com/TOOV5nuLDB

— Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo) November 3, 2019

At the time Canelo was ahead by two points on two judges’ cards, and Canelo and Kovalev were tied on the third.

“That was basically it, patience,” Canelo said. “All he was doing was trying to score points. We knew it would take five or six rounds for me to get him. It was delayed a little bit, and it was tougher than we thought, but it was successful.

“He was closing up his guard and making it difficult. That made it a close fight. I did miss some punches but, in the end, that is what worked.”

According to CompuBox stats, Kovalev threw 400 more punches than Canelo, but only connected on 11 percent of his 577 attempted jabs. Kovalev landed only four power punches on Canelo’s body, and the new champ was successful on 47.9 percent of his power shots overall.

Kovalev, who rarely fails to find a scapegoat, said that he got tired after six rounds because he had fought Anthony Yarde on August 24.

“But he really is a great champion,” Kovalev said of Canelo, before he went to a local hospital as a precaution. “He came into this division fresh. I have big respect for him. He made history tonight.”

For most of America it will be history without a witness. Kovalev did not arrive in the ring until 10:08 p.m. PST. By the time he and Canelo finished, it was already Daylight Time on the East Coast. That was at least an hour after Ryan Garcia, the 21-year-old lightweight, had knocked out Romero Duno in the first round. And that’s not the prescribed way to spend that bonus hour.

The reason was silly, self-destructive and pure boxing.

ESPN was showing the UFC match between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. So DAZN, the streaming service, decided it would make the world’s best fighter and a longtime light-heavyweight champion dawdle in their locker rooms until things were finished in the octagon.

To mollify the crowd, the UFC fight was shown on the TVs inside the arena. And neither Canelo or Kovalev used the delay as an excuse.

But it was a colossal marketing failure, a backhand slap to the DAZN subscription base, and an admission that nobody involved in this product really believes in it. Would the Masters delay its telecast to accommodate the Long Drive Contest?

There were reports that DAZN actually picked up subscriptions after Masvidal and Diaz were over. That does not justify the treatment of Golden Boy’s leading man. It also wasn’t the only graceless moment. Two reporters from The Athletic were banished from ringside and forced into the upper reaches, after the website reported extensively on Canelo’s hard feelings toward Oscar De La Hoya.

Kathy Duva, who runs Main Events and promotes Kovalev, brought some dignity.

“We tried our best,” she said, “but Canelo is the best fighter in the world. Against him, you can’t survive a mistake.”

Boxing always seems to. It also never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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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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Photos: Bellator 228

  • Antonio McKee, top, gets a second-round TKO of William Sriyapai during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Antonio McKee, left, battles William Sriyapai during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mckee defeated Sriyapai via TKO. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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  • Antonio McKee has his hands raised after defeating William Sriyapai during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mckee defeated Sriyapai via TKO. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee does a flip after defeating Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee knocks out Georgi Karakhanyan in eight seconds during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Antonio McKee, right, and son A.J. McKee celebrates Antonio defeating William Sriyapai during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mckee defeated Sriyapai via TKO. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Antonio McKee, right, battles William Sriyapai during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mckee defeated Sriyapai via TKO. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee, red, defeats Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee, red, defeats Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee reacts after defeating Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee reacts after defeating Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. McKee, red, defeats Georgi Karakhanyan by first round knockout during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by unanimous decision to retain his featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Patricio Freire, red, battles Juan Archuleta during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Freire defeated Archuleta by judges decision to retain his Featherweight championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Weber Almeida, red, battles Castle Williams, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Shawn Bunch, red, battles Leandro Higo, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Lyoto Machida, red, battles Gegard Mousasi, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. Mousasi defeated Machida by split decision. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Shawn Bunch, red, battles Leandro Higo, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Weber Almeida, red, battles Castle Williams, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Weber Almeida, red, battles Castle Williams, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Shawn Bunch, red, battles Leandro Higo, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Mike Jasper, red, battles Johnny Cisneros, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Weber Almeida, red, battles Castle Williams, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Mike Jasper, red, battles Johnny Cisneros, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Mike Jasper, red, battles Johnny Cisneros, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Weichel,n red, battles Saul Rogers, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Weichel,n red, battles Saul Rogers, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Mike Jasper, red, battles Johnny Cisneros, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Weichel,n red, battles Saul Rogers, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Weichel,n red, battles Saul Rogers, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Ava Knight, red, battles Shannon Goughary, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A.J. Agazarm, red, battles Jonathan Quiroz, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Weichel,n red, battles Saul Rogers, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Darrion Caldwell, red, battles Henry Corrales, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Darrion Caldwell, red, battles Henry Corrales, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Darrion Caldwell, red, battles Henry Corrales, blue, during Bellator 228 at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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