To the scorecard: Wladimir simply overwhelming

Dan Rafael recaps a week's worth of exciting action, from an ESPN "instant classic" to Wladimir Klitschko's impressive victory for a heavyweight title.

Originally Published: April 24, 2006
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of last week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Manheim, Germany
Heavyweight
Wladimir Klitschko TKO7 Chris Byrd
Wins a heavyweight title
Records: Klitschko, 46-3, 41 KOs; Byrd, 39-3-1
Rafael's remark: This was an utter destruction. Aside from a decent opening round, Byrd was never in the fight as the much bigger and stronger Klitschko ravaged him with heavy shots from both hands.

He dropped Byrd in the fifth and seventh rounds, busted open a gash on Byrd's face in the seventh and stripped away the title belt that Byrd had held longer than any of the other men claiming heavyweight crowns. It was even a more one-sided fight than their first encounter in 2000, when Klitschko dominated Byrd, but couldn't knock him out.

When Klitschko is on his game and confident, he is a dominant offensive force and would be favored against any heavyweight in the world. But his flaws -- a weak chin and problems with confidence and stamina -- always mean there is a chance for a dramatic fight. He's still only 30. As brilliant trainer Emanuel Steward and Klitschko grow more comfortable with each other every day, the Ukrainian could hang onto his belt for quite a while. With older brother Vitali Klitschko giving up his version of the title last fall and retiring because of a knee injury, Wladimir has picked up the championship mantle his brother left behind. If we had to guess, we would not be surprised to see Wladimir Klitschko's first defense come against James Toney before the end of the year.

The title win by the Ukraine native thrusts another dagger into the notion that the heavyweight championship is an American birthright. It isn't anymore. Of the four recognized title holders, Klitschko became the third from a former Soviet republic in five months to bump off an American beltholder. Nicolay Valuev of Russia won his belt from John Ruiz in December and Sergei Liakhovich of Belarus beat Lamon Brewster in April. That leaves title holder Hasim Rahman to carry the mantle for America, and he will next face a man who already owns a knockout win against him, Oleg Maskaev of Kazakhstan.

Heavyweight
Alexander Povetkin W6 Friday Ahunanya
Scores: Unavailable
Records: Povetkin, 7-0; Ahunanya, 20-5-2
Rafael's remark: Povetkin, the 26-year-old 2004 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist for Russia, took a huge step up in competition in just his seventh pro fight. Ahunanya is a seasoned pro, despite being mired in an 0-4-1 slide (the draw was against Dominick Guinn). Ahunanya also went the distance with title holder Sergei Liakhovich in 2001. And if you ask Mike Tyson who gave him his best sparring in recent years, he'll tell you it was Ahunanya. According to those who were at ringside, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Povetkin looked good against Ahunanya, and is certainly a prospect to keep an eye on, especially now that the bulk of the rising heavyweight prospects are coming from Eastern Europe.

Saturday at Paks, Hungary
Junior lightweight
Janos Nagy W8 Evgeny Stausov
Score: 79-73
Records: Nagy, 24-0; Stausov, 13-6
Rafael's remark: Fighting in front of his home crowd, Nagy tuned up for his May 20 mandatory challenge against junior lightweight title holder Jorge Barrios. Good thing Nagy didn't get injured or cut. His upcoming bout will be on the HBO undercard of Marco Antonio Barrera's junior lightweight title defense against Rocky Juarez.

Friday at Augusta, Ga.
Heavyweight
Derek Bryant TKO4 Taurus Sykes
Records: Bryant, 19-4-1, 16 KOs; Sykes, 24-3-1
Rafael's remark: In the "Friday Night Fights" main event, Bryant -- the self-proclaimed "One Man Riot" -- looked impressive in scoring a dominant knockout win against late substitute Sykes, who like Bryant, has lived on the edges of contendership in the heavyweight division for years. Bryant, a Philadelphia southpaw, had been on a 1-3-1 skid and in desperate need of a victory. He got it in scoring perhaps the best win of his career. Sykes, who replaced Alonzo Butler, had been dusted in two rounds by Samuel Peter last summer. Bryant needed a little longer to take care of him, but dropped him four times in a powerful display. When the carnage finally was called off in the fourth round -- what took so long? -- an obviously disoriented Sykes sat down on the ring apron, then jumped out of the ring and began wandering through the crowd while the medical staff and commission did absolutely nothing. Instead, they left it up to Sykes' corner people to get him back to the ring so he could be examined. That's a bad blunder by the Georgia commission and totally unacceptable.
Junior bantamweight
Rayonta "Stingray" Whitfield W8 Evaristo Primero
Scores: 79-71 (twice), 78-72
Records: Whitfield 13-0; Primero, 14-9-1
Rafael's remark: Fighting in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd, Whitfield, a 24-year-old prospect and former top amateur, did a nice job as he stepped up his level of opposition against a seasoned pro. Whitfield was too classy and flashy against Primero, who despite sliding to 0-4-1 in his last five, still represented the best opponent of Whitfield's career. The three previous losses in the skid came against world class opponents -- Hussein Hussein, Gerson Guerrero and former champ Mauricio Pastrana. Whitfield looks like he has a lot of skill and potential.

Friday at Sacramento
Junior welterweight
Rogelio Castaneda TKO4 Craig Weber
Records: Castaneda 22-10-3, 8 KOs; Weber, 21-2-2
Rafael's remark: The first time they met, Castaneda won a 10-round split decision in 2003. The rematch was ruled a 12-round split draw in 2004. Both fights were action-packed. Castaneda didn't make it so close this time, dropping Weber at the end of the fourth round. Although Weber beat the count, he was very unsteady and the fight was stopped in his corner between rounds.
Junior lightweight
Daniel Jimenez W8 Vicente Escobedo
Scores: 77-74 (twice) Jimenez, 76-75 Escobedo
Records: Jimenez, 13-1-1; Escobedo, 9-1
Rafael's remark: Upset city! Escobedo was being groomed by Golden Boy Promotions as a future star, but he didn't look like one in this fight, which came perhaps a little soon in his career. Jimenez, who fights out of the Miguel Cotto camp in Puerto Rico, dropped Escobedo in the final round of an excellent action fight and got the well-deserved decision. Escobedo, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, suffers the indignity of becoming the first member of the team to lose a pro fight. Maybe we ought to look at Jimenez as a prospect now? After losing his pro debut and getting a draw in his second fight, he has reeled off 13 wins in a row and has a nice notch on his belt with this victory against the highly-touted Escobedo.

Friday at Enseñada, Mexico
Bantamweight
Ivan "Choko" Hernandez W12 Roberto Leyva
Scores: 117-112, 115-113, 114-114
Records: Hernandez, 23-1-1; Leyva, 23-5-1
Rafael's remark: In an all-Enseñada rivalry fight, Hernandez, a former junior bantamweight titlist, edged Leyva, a former strawweight titlist. Although it was a neighborhood fight, it was still an odd pairing. Leyva, who lost his last fight to Ivan Calderon in a strawweight title challenge, was moving up four weight divisions -- the 14-pound difference between fights is an extraordinary jump in the small divisions -- for the bout. Hernandez was coming down two divisions after having his last fight as a featherweight. In the end, the bigger man got the close victory. It sets Hernandez up for a possible junior featherweight title challenge. If the deal is finalized, he will move back up in weight to face champion Israel Vazquez on the HBO PPV undercard of the June 10 Antonio Tarver-Bernard Hopkins fight.

Thursday at New York
Bantamweight
Silence Mabuza W12 Ricardo "Chapo" Vargas
Title eliminator.
Scores: 120-107, 117-111 (twice)
Records: Mabuza, 19-1; Vargas, 39-12-3
Rafael's remark: All credit to Mabuza for his victory, but this is what is screwed up about boxing and why the IBF is an absolute joke. In his last fight, Mabuza, a fine fighter from South Africa, was thoroughly destroyed by bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez. Mabuza, who was the mandatory challenger, was knocked down, lost every round and then was stopped in the fourth. This was his first fight since, and because the vile IBF ridiculously sanctioned it as a title eliminator, Mabuza is again the mandatory challenger. Total insanity. It would have been just as bad had Vargas won because he deserves another title shot even less than Mabuza does. Marquez dominated him in a 2005 title defense and Vargas entered the Mabuza fight 2-2 in his previous four bouts. How does that warrant a title eliminator?
Super middleweight
Curtis Stevens W8 Carl Daniels
Scores: 79-72, 79-71, 77-74
Records: Stevens, 12-0; Daniels, 49-8-1
Rafael's remark: Stevens, the 21-year-old big puncher from Brooklyn, knocked Daniels down in the opening round and cruised to the best victory of his young career. Daniels is just playing out the string and probably should consider retirement. He held a junior middleweight world title in 1995 but is now way over that weight and has lost four consecutive fights. At this point, he is simply allowing young guns to make him a stepping stone. All four recent defeats have come to rising prospects: Stevens, Chad Dawson, Joachim Alcine and Joe Spina.

Thursday at Worley, Idaho
Cruiserweight
Vassiliy Jirov W10 Luke Munsen
Scores: 98-91, 95-94, 94-93
Records: Jirov, 36-3-1; Munsen, 18-5
Rafael's remark: Jirov, the former cruiserweight champ and Olympic gold medalist, lost his world title to James Toney in 2003 and moved up to heavyweight, where he didn't fare nearly as well. He lost to Joe Mesi and Michael Moorer in 2004 and then looked awful in a 2005 draw against washed up Orlin Norris. With his career as a heavyweight going nowhere, Jirov made a smart decision to go back to cruiserweight, where he can still be a factor. In his return, he pounded out a decision over Munsen, a 25-year-old from Spokane, Wash.

Wednesday at Palm Beach, Fla.
Welterweight
Kermit Cintron TKO10 David Estrada
Records: Cintron, 26-1, 24 KOs; Estrada, 18-3
Rafael's remark: What a fight! This one will be on everyone's list of the best fights of 2006 when December rolls around. How good was it? ESPN Classic dubbed it an "instant classic" -- the first boxing match ever given that label by the network -- and will replay it Tuesday night at 9 ET. Although Cintron was coming off a low-level victory, the last time most people saw him was on ESPN's pay-per-view card last April, when welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito smashed him in four rounds. The last time Estrada was in the ring was on the same card, and he lost a decision to Sugar Shane Mosley. Now matched against each other, Cintron and Estrada made for a brilliant battle on ESPN2 -- especially the third round -- in a bruising fight. Cintron, though, was a little bigger, a little quicker and a little stronger. In the 10th, he landed a combination that knocked Estrada down. Although Estrada survived, Cintron was back on him immediately. He forced Estrada against the ropes and was unloading shots when the referee halted the fight. After the fight, both fighters wound up in the hospital for observation, where they ran into each other and wound up talking about their classic battle. Those who saw it will be talking about it for some time as well.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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