Commentary

Pavlik doles out beating in hometown

Originally Published: December 21, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Saturday at Youngstown, Ohio
Middleweight
Kelly Pavlik TKO5 Miguel Espino
Retains world middleweight title
Records: Pavlik, 36-1, 32 KOs; Espino, 20-3-1, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: It's been a rough 2009 for Pavlik, but at least he closed it in strong fashion with a dominant and exciting performance against Espino, a hard-charging but overmatched challenger. Pavlik hadn't fought since stopping mandatory challenger Marco Antonio Rubio in February in his hometown of Youngstown, the longest layoff his career. Pavlik was sidetracked by a nasty staph infection in a finger in his left hand that forced him to twice call off defenses against Paul Williams. Even when the infection was gone, the resulting two surgeries left a tendon in his finger a mess and he had a bad reaction to antibiotics, which put him in the hospital. Although he still couldn't make a complete fist, he took the fight with Espino -- an easier opponent than Williams -- on five week's notice so he wouldn't be stripped of his sanctioning organization titles.

Although the Youngstown faithful did not turn out in droves like they have for Pavlik in the past (he drew just 3,409, less than half the 7,000 capacity), those who did buy tickets, or order what turned out to be an excellent Top Rank pay-per-view card, got their money's worth. Espino, best known for appearing on the first season of "The Contender" reality series, came to fight. He never took a backward step and was courageous in defeat. Pavlik, 27, making his third defense, was way bigger and more powerful than Espino, who was rocked repeatedly with bombs, but took everything and kept coming. It was a slugfest, but one that Espino had no chance to win because he doesn't have much power. By engaging in a punchout, Pavlik made it a lot more entertaining than it would have been had he listened to trainer Jack Loew and used his size and reach advantage by staying on the outside and picking Espino apart. Instead, he stood toe-to-toe with him and made it exciting. Espino was warned multiple times for low blows, although none of them appeared intentional. Pavlik shook 'em off and finally crushed Espino with a giant right uppercut in the fourth round. Espino went down to a knee in the middle of the ring and barely beat the count. Pavlik unleashed two more uppercuts and Espino, who was bleeding from his nose, went down again before rising at nine. In the fifth, Pavlik continued to brutalize Espino with body shots and uppercuts, dropping him for a third time. Although Espino got up again, showing enormous heart, trainer John Bray asked referee Steve Smoger to call it off, which he did at 1 minute, 44 seconds.

With Espino out of the way and Pavlik apparently healthy and back on track, he called for Williams to fight him next year. Top Rank's Bob Arum said he'd like to simply reinstate the contract everyone signed before Pavlik's withdrew because of the hand problem. That's unlikely, however, given the rancor between the camps. Barring that fight being put back together, Pavlik could wind up in a unification bout with German titleholder Felix Sturm. There's also an outside chance he could move up to super middleweight to face Canadian titleholder Lucian Bute. Whomever Pavlik faces, it's nice to have him back in action.

Junior middleweight
Vanes Martirosyan TKO3 Willie Lee
Records: Martirosyan, 26-0, 17 KOs; Lee, 17-6, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: Martirosyan, a 2004 U.S. Olympian from Glendale, Calif. (but born in Armenia), looked outstanding disposing of Lee in surprisingly easy fashion to open Top Rank's excellent split-site pay-per-view card. The Freddie Roach-trained prospect staggered Lee, 29, of New Orleans, with a right hand in the first round and never stopped connecting. Martirosyan, 23, dropped Lee with a right hand in the second round. He finished Lee with a series of blows with 47 seconds left in the round of a good outing. He isn't ready for a top contender just yet, but Martirosyan, who gets a bit wild at times, ought to be after a couple of more fights.

Featherweight
Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia KO3 Yogli Herrera
Records: Garcia, 19-0, 16 KOs; Herrera, 22-13, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Garcia, 22, of Oxnard, Calif., doesn't get the hype of some other prospects, but he's probably the best one in boxing that you haven't really seen much of. When Vanes Martirosyan's fight ended early, Garcia, who is extremely poised and patient for such a young fighter, got unexpected television time on Top Rank's pay-per-view card and made the most of it in a dominant performance against a game veteran. Trained by his brother, former titleholder Robert Garcia, "Mikey" dropped Colombia's Herrera, 27, with a left hand near the ear in the third round. A flush right hand down the middle knocked Herrera down again later in the round, and that's all she wrote. Herrera lost his eighth in a row.

Middleweight
Matvey Korobov TKO3 Ken Dunham
Records: Korobov, 9-0, 7 KOs; Dunham, 6-12-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Korobov, 26, a 2008 Russian Olympian now living in Florida, was an amateur star and one of the most sought-after amateurs after the Beijing Games. Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin got him, and they're moving him nicely. In his second fight since hooking up with respected trainer Kenny Adams, Korobov took out the overmatched Dunham, 29, a late substitute, with ease. Korobov did as he pleased, dropping him in the first round and twice more in the third round of the blowout.

Heavyweight
Samuel Peter TKO4 Gabe Brown
Records: Peter, 33-3, 26 KOs; Brown, 18-13-4, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: After losing his title to Vitali Klitschko in a lopsided TKO loss in October 2008 and following that horrible performance with an even worse one in a decision loss to Eddie Chambers in March, Peter, 29, hit bottom. But now the Las Vegas-based Nigeria native is on the comeback trail. He signed with Top Rank, dropped 20-plus pounds and has won three in a row by early knockout, albeit against lesser opposition. But he's been in shape, which is the big difference. Peter, who was 240 pounds to Brown's 363 pounds, dominated. Peter dropped him in the fourth and finished him with an ensuing flurry. Peter undoubtedly will get another significant fight before too long. Brown, a buddy of Roy Jones, dropped to 0-7-1 in his last eight bouts.

Saturday at Ciudad Obregon, Mexico
Bantamweight
Nehomar Cermeño TKO11 Alejandro Valdez
Retains an interim bantamweight title
Records: Cermeño, 19-0, 11 KOs; Valdez, 22-4-2, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cermeño, 30, of Venezuela, has opened a lot of eyes with his recent performances. After back-to-back wins against former unified junior bantamweight titlist Cristian Mijares this year, Cermeño followed with a strong performance against Valdez, who was challenging for the interim belt in his hometown in the main event of the Mexican portion of Top Rank's split-site pay-per-view card. Valdez suffered a nasty cut over his right eye from an accidental head butt in the first round and fought through it all night. But Cermeño dominated, dropping Valdez twice in the second round and easily outboxing him. Cermeño lost a point for using his knee as a weapon in the 11th, but he followed the deduction by knocking him out with two seconds left in the round. All in all, an excellent showing from Cermeño, whose belt is quite dubious. But what else do you expect from the wretched WBA, which recognizes the active and uninjured Anselmo Moreno, who fought four times this year and defended his title on Dec. 4? The WBA is a joke. Valdez, 26, was getting a title opportunity three months after he battered bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel in a nontitle bout in Mexico, but was robbed of a third-round knockout. The cut that caused the end of the fight was ruled as being caused by an accidental head butt (making the fight a technical draw under Mexican rules) instead of a punch, which was clear as day on TV replays. Valdez collapsed after the fight with Cermeno and was taken to the hospital. According to Top Rank, he was only dehydrated and would be fine.

Lightweight
Humberto Soto W10 Jesus Chavez
Scores: 100-87 (three times)
Records: Soto, 50-7-2, 32 KOs; Chavez, 44-7, 30 KOs

Rafael's remark: Soto, a reigning junior lightweight titleholder who is expected to soon vacate his title, moved up to lightweight to face Chavez, a former lightweight and junior lightweight titleholder who is past his prime. Although the judges ruled it a shutout, this was a tough, tough fight. Chavez, 37, showed surprising resolve and never stopped coming at Soto in the all-action slugfest. But Soto, 29, was simply bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled as he did more than enough to earn the decision -- even though it seemed Chavez deserved at least a couple of rounds. Mexico's Soto dropped his Texas-based countryman in the first round with a shot behind the ear and the action never let up. The fourth round was very intense. Chavez resorted to dirty tactics, including shoving Soto almost completely out of the ring in the fifth round, which cost him a point. He also did damage with a severe low blow in the sixth round, but Soto shook it off and they continued to pound away -- with Soto getting the better of it. Chavez dropped his third fight in a row and fourth bout in his past six, a downhill slide that began after the unfortunate death of Leavander Johnson as a result of injuries suffered in their 2005 lightweight title bout. Chavez should strongly consider retirement.

Saturday at La Guaira, Venezuela
Lightweight
Edwin Valero TKO6 Hector Velazquez
Retains a lightweight title
Records: Valero, 26-0, 26 KOs; Velazquez, 51-14-2, 35 KOs

Rafael's remark: Valero, the wild-swinging, big puncher from Venezuela, had won a junior lightweight belt and defended it four times before moving up to lightweight and knocking out Antonio Pitalua in two rounds in April to win a vacant lightweight title. That was Valero's first fight after signing with Top Rank, and big things were in the works. Top Rank and Valero, who had been unable to get a license anywhere in the United States except Texas because of a previous medical issue, hoped to gain his license in Nevada and move into some bigger fights. However, that path was stopped cold because Valero was busted on a drunken driving charge and unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States. So his career once again was thrown off track. Rather than a big fight in the U.S., he wound up taking this defense at home against Velazquez, a onetime fringe featherweight and junior lightweight contender once stopped in six rounds by Manny Pacquiao. It was a rough, physical fight in front of a raucous crowd. Although Valero suffered a cut over his eyebrow from an accidental head butt early in the bout, he was clearly the stronger man. He landed heavy shots to wear down Mexico's Velazquez, 34, who did not come out for the seventh round as he lost for the third time in his past four fights. Valero is next due to face interim titleholder Antonio DeMarco in Mexico on Feb. 6 in a Showtime main event, the first time Valero will be seen on American television other than small pay-per-view cards.

Saturday at Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico
Featherweight
Cristobal Cruz Tech. Draw 3 Ricardo Castillo
Retains a featherweight title
Records: Cruz, 39-11-2, 23 KOs; Castillo, 38-7-1, 25 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cruz, 32, has been on a nice roll since claiming a vacant belt in November 2008 against Orlando Salido. Castillo, 30, the younger brother of former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo, looked like he'd be an easy mark because he's always fallen short when taking on top opponents. But Cruz's third title defense ended in disappointment as it was ruled a technical draw when he and his Mexican countryman clashed heads in the third round. Cruz was unable to continue and since the bout had not gone the required four rounds to send it to the scorecards, it was ruled a technical draw. The fight was a rematch. In 2003, Cruz won an eight-round unanimious decision against Castillo.

Saturday at Managua, Nicaragua
Junior flyweight
Johnreil Casimero KO11 Cesar Canchila
Wins a vacant interim junior flyweight title
Records: Casimero, 14-0, 8 KOs; Canchila, 28-3, 22 KOs

Rafael's remark: Fighting on a card in honor of the late Alexis Arguello in Arguello's native Nicaragua, Casimero, 19, of the Philippines, scored an impressive knockout in the main event. He dropped Canchila with a right to the head midway through the round and finished the still-unsteady Canchila with a tremendous right hand to the temple moments later. Canchila was out before he hit the deck and the referee immediately called it off as medical personnel raced to his side. Canchila, 27, of Colombia, lost for the second time in three fights. He was also knocked out in the fourth round in an exciting rematch with Giovani Segura for a different version of an interim junior flyweight title in March. Casimero is definitely a fighter we'd like to see again, even if the WBO interim belt he claimed is bogus, considering that pound-for-pound entrant Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon holds the real title.

Saturday at Mendoza, Argentina
Junior flyweight
Juan Carlos Reveco KO3 Ronald Barrera
Retains an interim junior flyweight title
Records: Reveco, ; Barrera, 26-7-2, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: Reveco, 26, of Argentina, claimed his nonsensical WBA interim belt (is there any other kind?) in August via split decision against Francisco Rosas and was making his first defense against Barrera. It was a good little scrap, and they were trading punches in the third round when Reveco caught Barrera with a left to the body. He went down, wincing in pain, and took the full count sitting on his backside. Barrera, 25, of Colombia, who has challenged for strawweight and junior flyweight belts, dropped to 0-4 in title bouts. He fell to 0-2-1 in his past three bouts.

Saturday at Schwerin, Germany
Light heavyweight
Jürgen Brähmer W12 Dmitry Sukhotsky
Retains a light heavyweight title
Scores: 118-110, 116-112 (twice).
Records: Brähmer, 35-2, 28 KOs; Sukhotsky, 14-1, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: Making his first defense, Brähmer was tested in his hometown by obscure Russian Sukhotsky, 28. Brähmer took advantage of Sukhotsky's leaky defense to score well, including a left hook that rocked him in the second round. An accidental head clash opened a cut over Brähmer's left eye in the sixth round. Sukhotsky came on strong and hurt Brähmer in the eighth round with hooks and uppercuts. He staggered Brähmer again in the 10th round and nailed him for more than 20 unanswered shots. Brähmer was bleeding badly from the cut and seemingly out on his feet, but the bout was allowed to continue. Brähmer got a bit of luck when referee Michael Ortega called time so the ringside doctor could examine the cut. The delay gave Brähmer valuable recovery time, and he hung on for the decision.

Middleweight
Sebastian Zbik W12 Emanuele Della Rosa
Retains an interim middleweight title
Scores: 120-109, 117-111 Zbik, 115-113 Della Rosa
Records: Zbik, 28-0, 10 KOs; Della Rosa, 27-1, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Germany's Zbik, 27, claimed a shocking split decision against Italy's Della Rosa, 29, to retain perhaps the most ridiculous interim belt in boxing, and that's saying something. Why? Because Kelly Pavlik, who owns the WBC title, among others, is up to date on mandatory defenses and defended the real title on the same night. Zbik, who claimed the vacant interim trinket in July, may be a good fighter, but his belt is crapola. Zbik outboxed Della Rosa and was quite shocked to hear judge Herminio Cuevas Collazo's scorecard, which incredibly went to Della Rosa. Wonders never cease when it comes to scorecards. At least Zbik and his team knew the crazy scorecard ahead of time, because the WBC's awful open scoring system was being used, so everyone knew the cards after the fourth and eighth rounds.

Friday at Hinkley, Minn.
Middleweight
Fernando Guerrero TKO4 Jesse Nicklow

Records: Guerrero, 17-0, 14 KOs; Nicklow, 19-2-2, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Nicklow, 22, of Baltimore, had some success against rival Guerrero, 23, who was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Salisbury, Md., in the amateur ranks. Nicklow beat him twice, but he also lost their three other meetings, and got rolled in their professional showdown in the "ShoBox" main event on Showtime. Guerrero, a former National Golden Gloves champion and 2007 U.S. national champion, is one of boxing's best, and most exciting prospects, and did nothing to harm that reputation with his performance. Guerrero, a southpaw who still needs to work on his defense, landed a ton of punches in the second round to slow down Nicklow. In the fourth, he dropped him with a right, but Nicklow survived and fought back valiantly. But Guerrero took the shots and continued to hammer him until referee Mark Nelson stopped it with 51 seconds left in the round. Guerrero will be back in action shortly. He'll headline Feb. 19 on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" against Jesus Gonzalez.

Junior middleweight
Shawn Porter TKO4 Jamar Patterson
Records: Porter, 12-0, 10 KOs; Patterson, 8-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cleveland's Porter, 22, was an outstanding amateur who gained notoriety this year for the excellent work he gave Manny Pacquiao while serving as his chief sparring partner as Pacquiao prepared for his November fight with Miguel Cotto. Porter is a blossoming pro and turned in an explosive performance against Patterson, 27, of Utica, N.Y. Patterson, who had only fought once in the past 3½ years, was surprisingly sharp early. But Porter was sharper and faster and hit harder. He has incredible hand speed and beat Patterson to the punch almost every time, including the giant left hook that dropped Patterson in the fourth. The fight was over moments later during Porter's follow-up attack. Although Porter, a 2007 National Golden Gloves champion and 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate, appears a little undersized for the junior middleweight division, his speed and power are going to give a lot of opponents serious, serious problems. He's a major league prospect to keep an eye on. You'll have your chance on Feb. 19, when Porter fights on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" against Damian Frias in Cleveland.

Welterweight
Lanard Lane TKO2 Said El Harrack
Records: Lane, 10-0, 7 KOs; El Harrack, 8-1, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: Few had ever heard of Lane, 27, a Houston firefighter, before this explosive performance in the "ShoBox" opener, but it was impressive enough to want to see more of him. He wasted no time against El Harrack, 22, a native of England living in Nevada. Lane, using an accurate right hand, dropped him twice in the first round and had him all but out. With his eye swelling, Harrack returned for more abuse in the second round. Lane was dominating the round, but wasn't doing the kind of damage he did in the first round when referee Mark Nelson surprisingly jumped in for a very odd stoppage midway through the round. El Harrack was very angry with Nelson, screaming at him and dropping to his knees in disappointment. It was a terrible stoppage, but it doesn't take away from Lane's excellent performance.

Friday at Kobe, Japan
Bantamweight
Hozumi Hasegawa TKO4 Alvaro Perez
Retains a bantamweight title
Records: Hasegawa, 28-2, 12 KOs; Perez, 18-2-1, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: Japan's Hasegawa has had an outstanding title reign. The southpaw won his belt in 2005, faced several good opponents and made his 10th, and probably final, defense with a dominant performance against Nicaragua's aggressive Perez, 27. Hasegawa plans to relinquish his belt and move up in weight, so this was a nice exclamation point on his title run. Hasegawa, not known as much of a puncher over the years, boxed well early and led on all three scorecards before turning on the power. He recorded his fifth knockout in a row -- most of these have been of the spectacular variety. This one was just that: With about 20 seconds left in the round, he landed a nasty left cross on the button that dropped Perez face first to the canvas. Referee Bruce McTavish called it off without bothering to administer a count. Hasegawa, who turned 29 two days before the fight, will go to junior featherweight, although he is also considering a jump up to featherweight.

Thursday at Paris
Heavyweight
Jean-Marc Mormeck W8 Vinny Maddalone
Scores: 79-75, 79-73, 77-75
Records: Mormeck, 34-4, 22 KOs; Maddalone, 32-6, 23 KOs

Rafael's remark: Ending a 25-month layoff, France's Mormeck, 37, returned to the ring. The former cruiserweight champion hadn't fought since November 2007, when he lost the title to David Haye via seventh-round knockout. Now fighting as a heavyweight, like Haye (who now holds a belt), Mormeck took a competitive decision from New Yorker Maddalone, 35, the lovable club fighter who comes to brawl. Maddalone was aggressive -- as usual -- and had his moments, but ultimately, Mormeck was a bit too fast and too skilled for Maddalone.

Wednesday at New York
Junior featherweight
Guillermo Rigondeaux W8 Lante Addy
Scores: 80-71 (twice), 79-72
Records: Rigondeaux, 4-0, 3 KOs; Addy, 6-5-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Cuban defector, was one of the most decorated amateurs in history. Because of the incredible depth of his amateur experience, his handlers are moving him quickly. He was scheduled for a 10-rounder in just his third professional bout, although he schooled Addy in an eight-rounder in an appearance on promoter Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" card. Rigondeaux, who faced Addy on just a few days' notice when original opponent Rafael Tirado dropped out because of an issue with his prefight medical exam, had no problems with the new foe. The Freddie Roach-trained southpaw dropped the tough-as-nails Addy, of Ghana, in the first round and cruised to the virtual shutout decision. Rigondeaux is scheduled to return Feb. 5 against Cuauhtemoc Vargas on the Feb. 5 edition of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.