November 28, 2020

Simon Ruvalcaba

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis

In boxing as in life, change is always a new beginning. Saturday night’s WBO Welterweight title bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was the debut of what promoter Bob Arum called “The future,” as the night was the first major fight to be livestreamed on the new ESPN+ app. Much changes with time, one only needs to look at the host city as proof of that. Walking down the strip in Las Vegas 10 years ago versus today, there is a few less casinos and alot more shopping and dining choices along the strip. Gone are the days of what I called the “Card slappers” When I first started frequenting Vegas for fights. There also used to be a long taxi line on the outside of most hotel lobby’s that has now gave way to a dedicated floor for Uber.

Australian Jeff Horn was looking for some of the old when he came to Vegas to defend his title against one of boxing’s best Terrence “Bud” Crawford. The last time a Jeff from Australia came to Las Vegas for a Championship bout was June 28, 1991 on the undercard of the rematch between Mike Tyson and Razor Ruddock. Jeff Fenech faced the great Azumah Nelson for the Featherweight crown. Fenech rose to the occasion that evening and had the performance of his life 2 years after hand injuries had forced him to announce a retirement. The performance would go for not as the judges would rule the bout a draw.

While Horn was looking to rise to the occasion as his countryman did nearly 26 years ago, Omaha, Nebraska’s Crawford was looking to make ‘triple’ the theme of the day in sports? Earlier in the day horse “Justify” had won the Belmont Stakes to become only the 13th triple crown winner in thoroughbred history, and Crawford was looking to conquer his third division World Title. In the end it would be the Crawford wish coming true as he dominated the action from the beginning, frustrating a lunging Horn and countering just about every shot Horn would land which added a frustrated look to ‘The Hornet’s’ face. After eight rounds of dominance Crawford, stepped up the pressure in the 9th round, scoring a knockdown and eventual stoppage at 2:33 to claim the crown. Crawford remains unbeaten and improves to 33-0 (24) while the game Horn suffered his first defeat and is now 18-1-1 (12) losing in his first title defense, the belt that he won against legend Manny Pacquiao last year in Australia.

In the Co-Main Event for the WBO Latino Lightweight title it was a bloody slugfest between World Champion Jose Pedraza against Antonio Moran in yet another action rivalry match-up of Puerto Rico versus Mexico that has become folklore in boxing for much of the last half century. In the end Pedraza came from behind and swept the last 4 rounds to squeak out a close but unanimous (96-94 all three cards) decision. Pedraza improved to 24-1 (12) while Moran falls to 23-3 (15) despite gaining many fans with his gutty performance while blood free flowed from his nose to do a paint job on his formerly white trunks.

A well dressed, as if ready to enjoy a night out David Benavidez was in the corner of his brother. Jose. Jose got the memo and took care of business only 1:24 into the bout, dropping Caracas, Venezuela’s Frank Rojas for the count with a crushing right hand in a WBA Welterweight title eliminator. Benavidez of Phoenix, Arizona is now 27-0 (18) while Rojas suffers his first defeat and is now 22-1 (21).

Three of the night’s young prospects where under 21 years of age. The youngest ever signed Top Rank fighter, super featherweight, Gabriel Flores, JR, who was 16 when signed by top rank, now 18 and a week removed from his High School Graduation, Flores dominated Mexico’s Jorge Rojas to earn a unanimous (40-36 all three cards) decision to improve to 8-0 (5). The rising star Flores will be in action again July 7th in Fresno, California. Rojas drops to 4-4-1 (2).

20 year old, Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson dropped Brazilian Aelio Mesquita 5 times in less then 2 rounds to continue his impressive climb up the Featherweight ladder. Already fighting in 8 rounders, and confidently feeling ready if he where to get a World Title opportunity the Newark, New Jersey superstar is now 7-0 (4). In the post fight press conference there was hardly any questions or eye brows raised for Shakur as boxing media is starting to expect impressive outings from one of the best United States Amateur boxers of the last 20 years. Shakur speaks about that in a soon to be posted interview! Mesquita falls to 16-2 (14).

Yet another star in the making being developed in Oxnard, California’s fight factory, Maxim Dadashev won the NABF Jr. Welterweight title with a 10th round t.k.o. over former champion Darleys Perez of Columbia. It was an uneventful performance leading up to the stoppage, as Dadashev tried to find his range and was a tad more aggressive over the cagey veteran Perez. Dadashev is now 11-0 (10),

Omaha, Nebraska, Terrance Crawford stable mate and former All-Army Light Heavyweight Steve Nelson improved to 11-0 (9) stopping Kansas City, Kansas’s Dashon Webster 46 seconds into the 6th and final round. Nelson the 2012 Olympic alternate who then stuck around for an attempt at the 2016 Olympics before turning pro, found his range and started backing up the taller Webster. It was a steady dissection as Nelson got through his latest hurdle. Webster falls to 10-2 (6). Nelson is also dating female boxer Raquel Miller and in a soon to be posted interview, Nelson talks about the understanding and support that a fighting couple has for each other!

In the night’s opening contest, 17 year old Middleweight David “Lion of Zion” Kaminsky improved to 2-0 (2) destroying the body of Topeka, Kansas’s Trevor Lavin 1:12 into the 2nd stanza. Kaminsky, Egis Klimas’s latest charge, found the mark and Lavin grimaced as he took hard popping shots to the body throughout the bout, finally succumbing . Lavin is now 1-1 (1).

So in the end, we did get a look at the future and perhaps it won’t be so bad after all!

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