Commentary

Khan cruises past Kotelnik, claims title

Originally Published: July 20, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Saturday at Manchester, England
Junior welterweight
Amir Khan W12 Andreas Kotelnik
Wins a junior welterweight title
Scores: 120-108, 118-111 (twice)
Records: Khan, 21-1, 15 KOs; Kotelnik, 31-3-1, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: Ten months ago, Khan's world was in tatters. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Great Britain and 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year, who had been hyped as the next big thing in boxing, crashed and burned when he was brutally knocked out in 54 seconds by unheralded Breidis Prescott in front of a hometown crowd.

Now, Khan, 22, owns a world title after completing an impressive rebuilding job spearheaded by future Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. After the loss to Prescott, Roach took on Khan, who showed how badly he wanted to improve by making a commitment to train with Roach at his gym in Hollywood, Calif. Khan rebounded with an easy win, then turned back three-division champion Marco Antonio Barrera in a five-round technical decision in March.

It set up Khan for a shot at Ukraine's Kotelnik, 31, an experienced fighter with good fundamentals and a strong amateur pedigree; he was a 2000 Olympian. Moving up from lightweight to junior welterweight, Khan dazzled in his victory, which was delayed by three weeks after Kotelnik postponed the fight because of a tooth infection.

With former featherweight champ and fellow British Muslim Naseem Hamed at ringside, Khan pitched the virtual shutout as he took advantage of his tremendous hand and foot speed. Going in, it figured to be something of a toss up. But Khan was able to pick his shots almost at will. He jabbed beautifully, slipped punches and counter punches. He totally controlled the fight and outclassed Kotelnik, who was reduced to following Khan around for long stretches looking to land something decent. Even on the few occasions that Kotelnik did land, Khan took the blows with little problem. Khan followed Roach's inspired game plan to perfection.

There's a lot of talk in Britain about a mega fight for Khan against countryman and former champion Ricky Hatton. It will probably happen eventually and it will be huge, but it's unlikely to be next. The first defense could come against Dmitriy Salita (30-0-1, 16 KOs), the New York-based Ukrainian who somehow is a mandatory challenger despite an extraordinarily thin resume. Since boxing knows no bounds when it comes to taste, count on that fight, if it happens, to be promoted as a Muslim titleholder against a Jewish challenger. Khan also says he would like to fight in the United States and face top fighters. He specifically mentioned Juan Manuel Marquez. Whatever happens to Khan down the road, you have to give him credit for rebounding from such a devastating loss to claim a title against a quality opponent in such dominant fashion.

Middleweight
James DeGale TKO1 Ciaran Healy
Records: DeGale, 3-0, 2 KO; Healy, 10-11-1, 2 KOs

Rafael's remark: DeGale, 23, won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing with an unexpected run to the final. As a pro, the skilled southpaw disappointed some with a dreadfully boring performance in his distance-going four-round pro debut. However, DeGale bounced back with a first-round knockout in his second fight and added another first-round stoppage in his third bout. He put Healy away with a savage body attack. He had him backed up to the ropes when he unloaded hard body blows to both of Healy's flanks with 15 seconds left in the round. Healy went down but rose at eight before DeGale attacked again. There was no really big punch in the follow-up attack, but Healy, 34, went down again under extreme pressure. Referee Bill Edwards stopped the fight just as the round was ending and just as Healy's corner was throwing in the towel.

Junior welterweight
Frankie Gavin TKO2 Graham Fearn
Records: Gavin, 3-0, 3 KOs; Fearn, 4-3, 1 KO

Rafael's remark: Like he does for his other 2008 Olympians, promoter Frank Warren has high hopes for Gavin, 23, who became the first Brit to win a world amateur championship. As a pro, Gavin has been matched well and continues to impress. He has a fan friendly style and showed a diverse arsenal against Fearn, knocking him down twice in the second round. Fearn, 34, who lost his third in a row but first by knockout, got to his knees after the knockdown. He rose at eight, but the referee didn't like what he saw and stopped the fight. Gavin now has a fourth-round knockout, a third-round knockout and a second-round stoppage, in that order.

Super middleweight
Billy Joe Saunders TKO2 Matt Scriven
Records: Saunders, 3-0, 3 KOs; Scriven, 13-53, 1 KO

Rafael's remark: Saunders, just 19, was a British Olympian in 2008 and has looked good so far in his pro career as he scored his third consecutive second-round knockout in as many outings. Saunders put his punches together well and dominated, landing to the head and body until it was called off. Scriven, 35, despite his terrible record, was actually a step up for Saunders. Scriven is a tough guy who typically goes rounds with his opponents. Although Scriven lost his 28th fight in a row, it was only the third time in that stretch that he was stopped.

Junior lightweight
Kevin Mitchell TKO8 Rudy Encarnacion
Records: Mitchell, 29-0, 22 KOs; Encarnacion, 18-16-2, 8 KO

Rafael's remark: Mitchell, 24, is expected to get a mandatory title shot against Puerto Rico's Roman "Rocky" Martinez before the end of the year, so promoter Frank Warren wasn't going to put Mitchell at much risk. So, staying busy, Mitchell went to work on Encarnacion, 30, who lost his sixth in a row and 10th of his last 12 bouts.

Cruiserweight
Denis Lebedev TKO3 Enzo Maccarinelli
Records: Lebedev, 18-0, 13 KOs; Maccarinelli, 29-4, 22 KOs

Rafael's remark: Maccarinelli, a former titleholder, may very well have seen his career come to an end. Certainly, it is over at the top level for the 29-year-old from Wales. Maccarinelli simply cannot take a punch with any heat on it. For the third time in four fights, Maccarinelli suffered a rough knockout loss and had said before the fight that a loss would probably mean retirement. He had lost his belt via second-round destruction to David Haye in March 2008 but rebounded with an easy win against a weak opponent. But then Maccarinelli was stopped in brutal fashion in an interim title bout by Ola Afolabi in the ninth round in March. Now, Lebedev, a 29-year-old Russian southpaw, did the damage. He was an unheralded fighter with only one notable name on his record, that of Eliseo Castillo, whom he knocked out in the fifth round in March. Castillo had faced several quality opponents, including up at heavyweight against Wladimir Klitschko and Michael Moorer. Lebedev rolled past Maccarinelli, eventually punishing him with a flurry of left hooks, which forced referee Terry O'Connor to intervene at 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

Saturday at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Junior bantamweight
Tomas Rojas TKO9 Everardo Morales
Wins a vacant interim junior bantamweight title
Records: Rojas, 31-11-1, 22 KOs; Morales, 32-14-2, 22 KOs

Rafael's remark: Here we go again with more lunacy from a sanctioning organization. In this case it is the WBC, which sanctioned an interim title bout even though Vic Darchinyan remains the champion, despite a loss at a heavier weight earlier this month. In any case, Mexico's Rojas, 29, dominated his countryman until referee Jack Reiss stopped the bout at the end of the ninth round. Morales, 32, who had already failed to win three previous title bouts, had no business being in another one as he dropped to 3-3 in his last six. Rojas, who was knocked out by Jorge Arce in the sixth round September 2007, is 5-0-1 since. As interim titleholder, Rojas will be one of Darchinyan's mandatory challengers if Darchinyan elects to remain at junior bantamweight.

Friday at Las Vegas
Lightweight
Miguel Vazquez W10 Breidis Prescott
Scores: 96-93, 95-94 Vazquez, 97-92 Prescott
Records: Vazquez, 25-3, 12 KOs; Prescott, 21-1, 18 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mexico's Vazquez obviously didn't get the word that he was supposed to be just an opponent for Colombia's Prescott to roll through. Instead, Vazquez outhustled him all night to win the split decision in an upset in the "Friday Night Fights" main event. The 97-92 scorecard turned in by judge Dave Moretti was shockingly bad, but at least the right guy won the fight. Prescott, best known for his shocking first-round knockout of Amir Khan in September 2008, started well, dropping Vazquez for a flash knockdown on a jab in the first round. But after that, it was almost all Vazquez, who won his fourth in a row. He had Prescott bleeding from the mouth and had swollen his left eye. This is a big win for the unheralded Vazquez.

Junior middleweight
Erislandy Lara W6 Darnell Boone
Scores: 60-54 (twice), 59-55
Records: Lara, 7-0, 4 KOs; Boone, 16-12-2, 6 KOs

Rafael's remark: Lara, a 2005 world amateur champion for Cuba, got in good work against the battle-tested and durable Boone, who once knocked down Andre Ward and was coming off a split decision loss to prospect Craig McEwan on June 27. Going in, you had to figure this one was going the distance because Boone, 29, had only been stopped once in all those losses and has fought several fights at middleweight and super middleweight. Lara, 26, was never in danger as he cruised to the near-shutout. This fight had been scheduled a few weeks ago but postponed because Lara's visa paperwork was not in order. Lara had been a medal favorite in the 2008 Olympics but never got to compete because he was booted off the Cuban national team for trying to defect with teammate Guillermo Rigondeaux at the Pan American Games in Brazil in 2007. However, he tried again and made it in March 2008. Expect to see him on some high-profile cards as he is co-promoted by Golden Boy.

Junior featherweight
Guillermo Rigondeaux KO1 Roberto Guillen
Records: Rigondeaux, 2-0, 2 KO; Guillen, 4-3-3, 0 KOs

Rafael's remark: Rigondeaux needed three rounds to get rid of Juan Noriega in his pro debut on May 22, but not nearly as much time in his second go as a professional. This time the heralded two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) obliterated Guillen with a sweet hook to the body. Guillen, 33, dropped and was in agony. He had no chance to beat the count as the fight was called off at 2:57. Rigondeaux, 28, is a little old for a prospect with two fights but he's not like normal prospects. He is one of the greatest amateur boxers in history. The Cuban defector has those two Olympic gold medals, two world amateur championships, a Pan American Games gold medal and just about every other significant amateur accomplishment you can name to go with power in both hands, technical ability and poise. He's also being trained by Freddie Roach now, although Roach was unable to be in the corner on fight night because of an obligation to Amir Khan, who fought the next day in England. Instead, Roach assistant Jesse Reid was there for Rigondeaux. In this particular fight, Rigondeaux, who defected from Cuba in February with teammates Yudel Johnson and Yordanis Despaigne, didn't need anyone in his corner.

Junior middleweight
Yudel Johnson W4 Justin Paulo
Scores: 40-36 (three times)
Records: Johnson, 2-0, 1 KO; Paulo, 1-1, 0 KOs

Rafael's remark: Johnson, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist in Athens, is one of several Cuban amateur stars to defect in the past few years looking to forge a professional career and make a better life for themselves away from an oppressive government. Johnson left with teammates Guillermo Rigondeaux and Yordanis Despaigne in February and turned professional with an easy first-round knockout on May 22. He was tested more in his second outing, going the distance with Paulo. Johnson pitched the shutout.

Friday at Kissimmee, Fla.
Junior featherweight
Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. KO2 Cecilio Santos

Records: Vazquez Jr., 16-0-1, 13 KOs; Santos, 23-11-3, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: Puerto Rico's Vazquez Jr., 25, the son of the former three-division titleholder, looked good in the Telemundo main event blowing out Santos, 30, of Mexico. Vazquez was poised against the best opponent of his of his career. He calmly broke him apart until knocking him out with a flurry of shots. A body shot appeared to do the most damage to Santos, who was stopped with just one second left in the round. Although Santos, a four-time title challenger, dropped to 1-4-1 in his last six bouts, he had faced tremendous competition during the slump, including 10th-round knockout loss to Fernando Montiel for a junior bantamweight title, a draw with Dmitri Kirilov for another version of the junior bantamweight title and a seven-round technical decision loss against bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno.

Thursday at Rye Brook, N.Y.
Light heavyweight
David Telesco TKO2 William Gill
Records: Telesco, 30-6-1, 25 KOs; Gill, 9-24, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: At his best, Telesco was a quality light heavyweight contender with a hard punch. When he got his world title shot in 2000, he was unfortunate to get it against a prime Roy Jones Jr., who cleaned his clock in a shutout decision despite a hand injury. Telesco carried on for a few more years, fell into a 1-3 slump and dropped out of site after a February 2005 decision loss to Eric Harding. Now 41, Telesco made a comeback after a 4½-year layoff to smash the typically durable Gill with ease. He dropped Gill with a combination in the second round and finished him during a follow-up attack.

Tuesday at Tokyo
Featherweight
Elio Rojas W12 Takahiro Aoh
Wins a featherweight title
Scores: 118-110, 117-111, 116-113
Records: Rojas, 21-1, 13 KOs; Aoh, 17-2-1, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: Rojas, 26, a native of the Dominican Republic based in New York, has been a top prospect and rising contender for years, but was buried by promoter Don King, who never lifted a finger to properly promote him. Finally, after a 10-month layoff, he got his mandatory shot against Japan's Aoh and won in convincing fashion. It was only Rojas' fourth fight since 2007, but probably worth the wait considering he claimed a title. Faster and stronger, Rojas landed a lot of flashy combinations on the outgunned Aoh, 25, who was making the first defense of the title he won against Oscar Larios in their March rematch. Because of Japan's allowance of the WBC's open scoring system, Rojas knew he was ahead after both the fourth and eighth rounds, although Aoh stunned him with a right hook in the ninth round.

Tuesday at Kobe, Japan
Bantamweight
Hozumi Hasegawa TKO1 Nestor Rocha
Retains a bantamweight title
Records: Hasegawa, 27-2, 11 KOs; Rocha, 21-2, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Japan's Hasegawa is close to being on the pound-for-pound list as he racked up his ninth title defense, many of which have been against good opponents. His most recent came in very impressive fashion by blowing out Rocha, 26, of Montebello, Calif., in the first round. Hasegawa, 28, a southpaw, stunned Rocha with a left and then dropped him with a flush right hand. Rocha barely made it to his feet and was down again almost immediately under a hail of shots. He made it to his feet again, but was wobbly and the referee wisely stopped it. It the fourth defense in a row in which Hasegawa needed less than two rounds to finish his business, having also destroyed Cristian Faccio (TKO2), Alejandro Valdez (TKO2) and Vusi Malinga (TKO1) early.

Strawweight
Roman Gonzalez W12 Katsunari Takayama
Retains a strawweight title
Scores: 118-110 (three times)
Records: Gonzalez, 24-0, 20 KOs; Takayama, 23-4, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: Nicaragua's Gonzalez, 22, retained his title for the second time with a lopsided decision on Takayama's home turf. Gonzalez fought with a bit of a heavy heart. He was a protégé of the late Alexis Arguello, who died recently. Takayama, 26, who was cut over his eye from a punch in the sixth round, saw his five-fight winning streak end. His previous loss was a split decision to then-titleholder Yutaka Niida in 2007. Niida is the same fighter Gonzalez knocked out in four rounds to win a belt. Gonzalez, who has struggled to make the 105-pound division limit, wants to go up to the 108-pound junior flyweight division.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.