Commentary

Scorecard: Witter makes bold statement by blasting out Harris

By knocking out perennial contender Vivian Harris, Junior Witter made a chilling statement to Ricky Hatton, as well as the entire junior welterweight division, writes Dan Rafael.

Originally Published: September 10, 2007
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Friday at Doncaster, England
Junior welterweight
Junior Witter KO7 Vivian Harris
Retains a junior welterweight title.
Records: Witter, 36-1-2, 21 KOs; Harris, 28-3-1, 18 KOs
Rafael's remark: In recent years, there has been an exodus of the top talent from the junior welterweight division. Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto have led the charge in moving up. World champion Ricky Hatton is about to join them when he challenges Mayweather for the welterweight championship on Dec. 8. So, now, with a powerful one-punch, left-hook knockout of former titlist Harris, and Hatton's impending exit from the division, Witter firmly established himself as the new man to beat at 140 pounds, or, as they say in his native England, 10 stone.

Witter will never have the popularity that Hatton maintains in the United Kingdom, but he's very, very good. Witter is fast, skilled and clearly powerful and, although he's been begging for a showdown with Hatton for years, it's obvious why Hatton's camp has never shown a shred of interest: Witter is a style nightmare for the "Hitman." Harris, who for years has been regarded as one of the top fighters in the division, found out firsthand just how tough Witter is. Witter dominated him throughout the fight until drilling him with a left hook and a window dressing right hand that sent a badly dazed Harris down to the mat, where he took the full count as his head rested sideways on the bottom rope.

It was the second successful defense for Witter, 33, who claimed the belt Mayweather vacated by outpointing former titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley 11 months ago. Witter is going to have a hard time attracting top opponents to fight him because he's dangerous and can sometimes fight in a defensive style that does not appeal to a lot of fans or TV executives. But, eventually, they will have to deal with Witter, whose only loss was a decision to Zab Judah in a 2000 title bout.

Harris, 29, will have to go back to the drawing board. After getting shockingly knocked out by Carlos Maussa in June 2005, he rebounded with three consecutive victories to become Witter's mandatory challenger before this disaster.

Friday at Biloxi, Miss.
Welterweight
Zab Judah W10 Edwin Vasquez
Scores: 100-90, 98-93, 97-93
Records: Judah, 35-5, 25 KOs; Vasquez, 26-1, 22-11-2, 8 KOs
Rafael's remark: Although it was an uneventful fight -- more of a sparring session than anything -- this one must have felt good for Judah. It has been a tough stretch for Judah, who finally ended a rough four-fight run in which he was 0-3 with a no contest. This lopsided decision against the tough Vazquez was Judah's first victory since a third-round destruction of Cosme Rivera in May 2005. That was back when Judah was the undisputed welterweight champion. But a lot has happened since then. He was upset by Carlos Baldomir, dominated by Floyd Mayweather Jr., got suspended for a year for inciting a brawl between the corners during the 10th round of the Mayweather fight, endured a no contest with Ruben Galvan in his return and then was knocked out in the 11th round of a title bout by Miguel Cotto in June. The fight with Cotto, however, was sensational and Judah showed enormous heart, giving his career a boost despite the defeat.

Through it all, Judah, who turns 30 next month, remains one of the top welterweights in the world. He is still fast and powerful. However, he still needs more focus and maturity. But against fighters of Vazquez's caliber, Judah can still get by on his natural ability. Although Judah won the fight handily, he said he hurt his left hand during the middle of the fight, which prevented him from scoring the expected knockout in the season finale of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Vazquez, of Puerto Rico, lost his second in a row. He also was outpointed by Matthew Hatton, junior welterweight world champ Ricky Hatton's brother, in June.

Judah might fight once more before the end of the year against a similar caliber opponent in preparation for a possible significant match next year. Welterweight is deep and there several guys out there looking for a quality opponent -- titleholders Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron, former beltholder Antonio Margarito and even Oscar De La Hoya. Don't be surprised to see Judah land one of them.

Junior welterweight
Lamont Peterson TKO6 Frankie Santos
Records: Peterson, 22-0, 10 KOs; Santos, 15-4-3, 7 KOs
Rafael's remark: It's just a matter of time until Peterson, 23, and his 22-year-old undefeated brother, Anthony, make the transition from prospects into legitimate contenders. They probably need a couple of more fights apiece, but the talent is obvious. Typically, they have fought on cards together, but Lamont had the spotlight to himself on "Friday Night Fights" and didn't disappoint. He ravaged the overmatched Santos, who fell to 1-4-1 in his last six bouts, with powerful body shots throughout the fight until Santos' corner threw in the towel after the sixth round. Give Lamont another fight or two and by mid-2008 he should be ready to face a serious contender. Seeing him in a title bout by the end of next year -- and winning it -- is not a reach.

Friday at Tucson, Ariz.
Bantamweight
Abner Mares TKO7 Isidro "Chino" Garcia
Records: Mares, 14-0, 9 KOs; Garcia, 24-4-2, 8 KOs
Rafael's remark: Mares, a 2004 Mexican Olympian, is Golden Boy's jewel prospect, and this impressive performance in the Telefutura main event gives us no reason to change our mind. The 21-year-old dominated the smaller Garcia, who held a flyweight title from 1999 to 2000. He swelled up Garcia's left eye early in the fight and controlled him with a very solid jab. By the end of the seventh round, Garcia's eye was clearly giving him problems and his corner threw in the towel. Even though Garcia, 31, is past his prime, he has a ton of experience against quality opposition, and he undoubtedly taught Mares a thing or two. Garcia was trying to rejuvenate his career with his third fight of the year after not fighting since a June 2003 loss to then-flyweight titlist Eric Morel. If Garcia continues to fight, he'll probably go down in weight. As for Mares, the future is incredibly bright. With his most notable victory, Mares set himself up for his HBO debut. He is scheduled to fight Nov. 17 in the co-featured bout on the "Boxing After Dark" headlined by the Joan Guzman-Humberto Soto junior lightweight title bout.
Featherweight
Antonio Escalante TKO5 Feider Viloria
Records: Escalante, 16-2, 10 KOs; Viloria, 20-2-2, 14 KOs
Rafael's remark: Escalante was one of the hottest prospects around when he faced faded former junior flyweight titlist Mauricio Pastrana in January and was shockingly stopped in the eighth round. But Escalante appears back on track after winning his second in row since the stunning defeat. Viloria, a Colombian fighting in the United States for the first time, hurt Escalante a couple of times in the first round, but he came charging back to score a knockdown at the end of the second round. Escalante was in control in the fifth when he nailed Viloria with a combination that sent him reeling back to the ropes and down before the referee halted the fight. Escalante is still just 22, but he gets hit a bit too much for our liking. That said, when he fights it will almost assuredly be exciting.

Junior featherweight
Jonas Hernandez W6 Nestor Rocha
Scores: 59-54, 58-55, 57-56
Records: Hernandez, 7-1, 2 KOs; Rocha, 17-1, 5 KOs
Rafael's remark: In an upset, Hernandez bumped off Rocha, who was fighting for the first time since signing with Golden Boy Promotions a few months ago and was the clear favorite. Hernandez won his second straight since suffering his only defeat by outboxing Rocha, who suffered a cut from an accidental head butt.

Friday at Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Heavyweight
Hasim Rahman TKO2 Dicky Ryan
Records: Rahman, 43-6-2, 34 KOs; Ryan, 55-10, 44 KOs
Rafael's remark: Hasim Rahman's comeback continues. Last summer, he held a heavyweight title and was a big favorite to defeat Oleg Maskaev in their rematch. Maskaev, however, sprung the upset and knocked Rahman out in the 12th round. After 10 months off, Rahman returned and outpointed Taurus Sykes in a miserable performance on a nationally televised card. Now, fighting for the second time in three months, Rahman fought away from the bright lights against a hopeless opponent in Ryan, who hadn't fought since Shannon Briggs knocked him unconscious in the fourth round in March 2006. "The Rock" had Ryan down twice in the first round before stopping him in the second with a body shot. Rahman intends to keep busy and remains a possible opponent for top titleholder Wladimir Klitschko in early 2008.

Heavyweight
David Tua TKO2 Cerrone Fox
Records: Tua, 49-3-1, 42 KOs; Fox, 8-6, 8 KOs
Rafael's remark: Three weeks ago, Tua blasted Saul Montana out in the first round. Returning quickly on the same card as his rival, Rahman, Tua smoked Fox, which should come as no surprise. Tua, looking to get back in the heavyweight mix, scored three knockdowns in the second round before the fight was called off. It was Tua's seventh win in a row since his debatable draw against Rahman in 2003. Tua will remain busy. Promoter Cedric Kushner told ESPN.com that Tua will fight again on Oct. 18. Fox lost for the sixth time in seven fights, four of the losses coming via knockout. Like Rahman, Tua also figures as a possible early 2008 opponent for titleholder Klitschko.

Friday at Santa Ynez, Calif.
Lightweight
Antonio DeMarco W10 Nick Casal
Scores: 97-93 (twice), 96-94
Records: DeMarco, 16-1-1, 12 KOs; Casal, 16-2-1, 12 KOs
Rafael's remark: DeMarco, fighting for the fifth time in six months, won a competitive and action-packed fight despite suffering a cold during the week of the contest. The 21-year-old southpaw from Mexico busted open a cut on Casal's nose in the seventh round and also opened a cut on his lip as the fighters each went 10 rounds for the first time. Casal, of Niagara Falls, N.Y., showed great heart and staged a big rally as he rocked DeMarco in the 10th round, but he dropped his second decision in three fights. Both of Casal's defeats have come on "ShoBox." He's 2-2-1 in his past five.
Junior middleweight
Alfredo Angulo TKO2 Emmanuel Gonzalez
Records: Angulo, 10-0, 7 KOs; Gonzalez, 9-1, 4 KOs
Rafael's remark: In the "ShoBox" opener, Angulo, 25, of Mexico, had an easy night against Gonzalez, 21, of Puerto Rico. He floored him with a right to the jaw midway through the second round and used a combination to drop him for a second time, prompting referee David Mendoza to call it off. It was Angulo's second victory against Gonzalez -- he also beat him in a 2002 amateur fight during a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico. Angulo has gained a lot of experience in the pros because of sparring with such fighters as Ricky Hatton, Carlos Baldomir, Fernando Vargas, Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Margarito.

Wednesday at New York
Super Middleweight
James McGirt Jr. W8 Thomas Reid
Scores: 80-72 (twice), 80-71
Records: McGirt Jr., 17-0, 9 KOs; Reid, 35-19-1, 13 KOs
Rafael's remark: McGirt, the 24-year-old son of top trainer and former champion Buddy McGirt, cruised to a shutout win against journeyman Reid, who lost for the eighth time in 10 fights. McGirt, with little power to speak of, emerged with a bloody nose but an easy win after outboxing the faded Reid, who is 40.
Heavyweight
Michael Grant TKO7 Kevin Montiy
Records: Grant, 43-3, 33 KOs; Montiy, 17-4-1, 13 KOs
Rafael's remark: Seven years removed from his ill-fated second-round destruction at the hands of Lennox Lewis in a world championship fight (and a follow-up first-round knockout loss to Jameel McCline), the one-time future of boxing is still kicking around at age 35. Grant, who won his fifth in a row since suffering a seventh-round knockout loss to Dominick Guinn in 2003, knocked Montiy down in the sixth and seventh rounds before the fight was halted. Montiy had won two in a row following a fifth-round knockout loss to Mike Tyson-conqueror Kevin McBride in March 2005.

Middleweight
Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin W6 Jesse Orta
Scores: 60-53 (three times)
Records: Quillin, 15-0, 12 KOs; Orta, 7-11-1, 4 KOs
Rafael's remark: Quillin is staying busy, although fighting ridiculously weak competition. It was Quillin's seventh fight of the year and his second in three weeks. In his last bout, Quillin needed less than a round to drill Jose Corral. This time, Quillin went the distance but won every round and knocked Orta down in the second round. Quillin is worth keeping an eye on but how about just a small step up in competition?

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.