Showtime Championship Boxing: Wilder continues dominance, B-Hop still on another planet
On Saturday night Showtime Championship Boxing presented Hopkins vs Murat from the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Before the fights Al Bernstein discussed that the card had a little bit of everything in the three fights on the night. In the opener you had rising heavyweight star Deontay Wilder taking on Nicolai Firtha; the co-main event saw Peter Quillin defend his WBO middleweight title against Gabriel Rosado and the main event was the ageless one with Bernard Hopkins defending his IBF light heavyweight belt against top contender Karo Murat. It was another night of entertaining fights in this amazing year for boxing. We did end up with a mix tape of fights that started strong with Wilder-Firtha, was jarred offbeat by a cruel cut in the Quillin-Rosado track, and brought back around by the ODB of boxing in the Hopkins-Murat tilt.
Deontay Wilder is a polarizing rising young heavyweight. This is what happens when you start your career 29-0 with 29 KO/TKOs, stand 6’7″, and are from the US. To his critics he has not faced tough enough competition, and is mostly hype. Others see him as the future of the heavyweight division with the size, speed and power to deal with Wladimir Klitschko. More and more he is looking like the next heavyweight contender as he keeps passing each test he has been given. In this latest outing against the tough Firtha he showed a few more weapons in his arsenal and a lot of poise and patience.
Firtha is the type of fighter that comes to fight and is trying to win. He will force you to beat him and it will take more than just one good shot to do it. At 6’4″ he is a big heavyweight himself, quicker than his size would have you believe and is awkwardly effective with his movement. He came out aggressively and was right in Wilder’s face backing him up in the opening moments. He caught Wilder with a jab while Wilder was in between steps and rocked him backwards for a step and a half. Wilder quickly got his composure and danced backwards flicking out his jab. Firtha was in his face lunging forward trying to get inside of Wilder but the jab started to keep him back. Wilder also caught him with a nice right hook as he was coming in that slowed Firtha down. Then with a little over a minute in the round Firtha went down for the first time from a leap-in jab, right hand combo. The jab landed cleanly but the right just grazed Firtha, but caught enough to daze him. Wilder was also using his jab and left hook to control Firtha’s movement. Firtha would circle to his right, and to Wilder’s left away from the power of the right hand. Then Wilder would use his jab or left hook combined with his footwork to cut Firtha off and get him to circle back into his power.
His step-in jab/straight right combination is one of the reasons there are questions about Wilder. It is devastating and responsible for most of his seventeen first round KO’s and it looked like for a moment Firtha was going to be number eighteen but he survived a second knockdown to get out of the first round. He really has not needed to use much else in his previous fights. Firtha forced him to dig a little deeper and what we saw does not look good for his future opponents.
One of the impressive elements of his performance tonight was how comfortable he is in the ring even when he was getting pressed and crowded by Firtha. He did not start pressing or swinging wildly. Instead he stayed calm created the space he needed with his movement and delivered the right punches at the right time. We saw the nice short left hook he possesses and used effectively on the inside. He also used a good right hook including the second knockdown in the first round. He also patiently waited for the knockout to come to him was ready when it came.
The second round was entertaining as they started talking to each other in the ring. Wilder was using his devastatingly effective jab to pick apart Firtha. He does an excellent job of fighting tall and using his size and reach as an advantage. Firtha kept coming forward though and after eating a jab and a right hand he caught Wilder with a hard right to the body. He worked the body better than Wilder in this fight but it did not slow Wilder down. In between rounds Firtha’s corner told him to stop lunging at Wilder.
He did a good job of that in the third round and it might have been he best round of the fight. He used a nice couple of nice counter punches and good movement to keep Wilder at a distance for much of the round. Then with forty-eight seconds left in the round Wilder caught him again with glancing shots but they still drove Firtha backwards through the ropes. Firtha fell through the middle part of the ropes and had to hold onto the top ones to keep from falling into the crowd. The referee ruled it a push and Firtha was able to survive the round. So far Wilder had not caught him cleanly but he was getting closer. The fourth round is the furthest any of Wilder’s previous opponents had made it so far. Firtha was trying to become the first to make it to the fifth but Wilder was starting to create his openings. Early in the round he feinted with an overhand right, threw the left hook as Firtha ducked into it and finished with a right hook. Then back to the jab, jab, jab sequence controlling the distance and patiently stalking the KO. As he was waiting he caught Firtha with a right hook, then a little later a left hook, and even a right head snapping uppercut. Then a few beats after the uppercut he threw another leap-in jab and straight right hand combination. This time the jab is just the range finder and the right hand landed cleanly and Firtha’s night was over. The ref got to four in the count and waved off the fight.
Once again Wilder looked impressive getting the early KO and you can see why the late Emmanuel Stewart called him the next American heavyweight champion. He will need to pass a few more tests before he is gets to challenge for the title but he is read for them. We should see him in against some tougher competition in his next few bouts. He is only twenty-eight years-old with perfect 30-0 record all by KO/TKO and at the same age in his career Klitschko was struggling to put it together. Wilder seems to have it figured out he just needs to face a couple of top heavyweights to find out if he is close to being ready to challenge for the title.
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The WBO middleweight championship fight between Peter Quillin (29-0 22 KO/TKO’s) and Gabriel Rosado (21-6 13 KO/TKO’s), was scheduled for twelve rounds but unfortunately it did not get there. It was stopped by the ringside doctor in the 10th round due to a cut over Rosado’s left eye. Neither Rosado nor his trainer, Billy Briscoe, wanted the fight stopped at that moment as Rosado had been coming on strong the last couple of rounds. In Rosado’s fight with Gennady Golovkin Briscoe stopped the fight after a similar incident and Rosado was not able to fight back. In that fight the cut came in the second round and the fight went on until the 7th round before it was stopped. In this fight the cut happened in the ninth and the fight was halted in the tenth.
It was a shame because Rosado had been coming on strong and the cut was clearly not hurting him. The fight was also on its way to being a fight of the year candidate. You do not want the fighter to get hurt or put themselves in danger but his corner had already proved that he has his fighter’s best interests at heart. It should have continued at least a little longer instead it left an air of incompleteness with the premature stoppage.
The fight itself was masterpiece in the making. Quillin got off to a quick start in first round that the fighters used to feel each other out. Quillin landed more and was able to avoid Rosado’s punches. There was one brief flurry of an exchange between the two fighters but nothing landed cleanly from either fighter. In the round Quillin landed one good left hook that got Rosado’s attention but did not rock him. Even though Rosado had spent most of his career at 154 lbs he had proven that he could take a great shot. His first fight at middleweight was the Golovkin fight and while he got the stoppage Golovkin was not able to knock him down. There is no doubting the power of Golovkin and Rosado took it better than most.
Quillin was able to send Rosado down to the canvas after another cautious round. They both spent a lot of their faking and feinting to see how the other fighter would react. Pauli Malignaggi picked up the fact that Quillin was varying his jab, sometimes pawing with it and other times snapping it in. This helped keep Rosado off-balance. After using a couple of flicking jabs that backed Rosado into a corner, Quillin landed a right hand and left hook that caught Rosado off-balance and his hand hit the ground for a knockdown. Rosado was not dazed and the knockdown was more a result of him being off-balance. In the first two rounds Rosado was studying Quillin and more on the defensive. In between rounds Briscoe told he needed to start backing Quillin up. Rosado came out more aggressive to start the third round. He was using his jab more and mixing in more combinations, coming forward and more offensive. Rosado also worked the body more for his best round. He did not move Quillin backwards too much but he did slow him down. Quillin did land a solid left hook that was the best punch of the round. Rosado was definitely more comfortable in that round.
In the fourth it looked like the first two rounds again with Rosado landing one good right hand but not much else. Then in the waning moments of the round Rosado came alive and landed several solid shots in a flurry to close out the round. This spurred on the action of the fifth round with both fighters coming firing away with some big bombs. They both were starting to connect more and both fighters were comfortably aggressive. The sixth round was more cautious aggression for the opening minute then they started to land some shots on each other. Rosado was now consistently backing Quillin up but he was responding and fighting back at Rosado. The round ended with another flurry from the two fighters. Rosado was climbing back into the fight.
The seventh round was more back and forth action with each hurting the other fighter as they were starting to land more solid clean shots. Rosado was being more and more aggressive. In between rounds Quillin’s corner was telling him to outbox Rosado and stay off of the ropes. Quillin did it for the first two minutes of the round. He was able to dance away whenever Rosado got him against the ropes. Rosado was definitely the aggressor of the fight at this point and with a minute to go in the round he backed Quillin against the ropes and kept him there. Pushing him back at one point when Quillin tried to get off of them. After a couple a good shots from Rosado Quillin fired back with a right uppercut and left hook combo to punch his way off of the ropes. The round ended with both fighters throwing at the bell.
The ninth round started out more cautious with each fighter looking for an opening. Quillin found one first and landed a couple of good shots one minute into the round. They are warily eyeing each other, measuring, just looking for an opening when they have another flurry thirty seconds later. At the one minute mark Rosado landed a nice right hand. This led to another exchange in which they both catch each other cleanly with a couple of shots. They go back and forth with Rosado coming forward and then Quillin catches Rosado with a stiff jab with fourteen seconds left the round that opened up the cut on the left eyelid. It started to bleed immediately and instantly.
The referee and the ringside doctor check the cut and let the tenth round start. They have a couple of exchanges to start the round and the referee is watching the eye closely. Forty seconds into the round he calls time and brings the doctor back in to look at the cut. It is nasty looking but it was not slowing him down or hampering his vision. Despite Rosado’s pleas to be allowed to continue the doctor stopped the fight. You have to feel for him as it was a world title shot and he was coming on strong. The fight should have been allowed to continue at least until the cut started to affect Rosado. Instead it was an unsatisfying end to what had been a very competitive and close fight. The judges had it much differently than the Showtime broadcast crew. The announcers had it even on two cards and Quillin ahead by one point on another. The three judges had Quillin well ahead and Rosado would have needed a knockout. It was a much closer fight than the 90-80, 87-83 and 89-81 scorecards would indicate.
In the third tale of this trilogy, the main event featured Karo Murat in his first fight on US soil taking on the ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins who was defending his IBF light heavyweight title. At forty-eight years-old Hopkins was the oldest fighter to defend a title in a main event. He came out in his alien garb including a mask. It is hard to argue with the otherworldly results he keeps turning in. He was in control of this fight and used many of the different tricks he had picked up in his twenty-five year career. The referee was unwilling to call much of anything and Hopkins got away with a lot of extracurricular activity. Murat never had Hopkins in trouble during the fight. Hopkins was adept and ducking and slipping punches oftentimes standing right in front of Murat but never getting hit cleanly. This can being frustrating to an opponent and it definitely frustrated Murat at times. Hopkins was also in excellent shape and never slowed during the fight. He also knows how to be economical in the ring and never wastes energy. It is almost like watching a boxing clinic when he fights and this was another example of it. He is a master of all elements including the mental and emotional side of it. He will push the edges of the rules and will make the referee define the rules on that night. This can be frustrating to opponents and it happened in the seventh round of this fight. As the referee was separating the two fighters Murat reached out and tapped Hopkins on the chin. This earned a one point deduction from the referee and you have to think that it was a retaliation for all of the shenanigans that Hopkins pulled throughout the fight. He is master at baiting you into his game and then you end up getting caught retaliating.
It was no surprise when the scores were read and Hopkins easily took the UD to retain the title. He looked completely comfortable in the ring including kissing Murat on the back of the head at the end of one exchange in the fifth round. He shows no real signs of aging in the ring and you have to wonder if two years from now he will be fighting for a title at the age of fifty. Maybe fifty is when a fighter enters their prime on his home planet and his best years are still ahead of him. It will be fun to watch it all unfold as he continues to rewrite the record books with each fight and our idea of what is an old fighter.
It was another great night of fights from Showtime Championship Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions. They have been at the forefront of the resurgence of boxing in 2013 with some amazing and competitive fights. It will be fun to watch the rest of the year unfold.
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