Commentary

Ortiz, Salido author upsets to earn titles

Updated: April 18, 2011, 9:01 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Sunday at Jakarta, Indonesia

Featherweight
Chris John W12 Daud Yordan

Retains a featherweight title

Scores: 117-111, 116-112 (twice)

Records: John, 45-0-2, 22 KOs; Yordan, 27-2, 21 KOs

Rafael's remark: This fight probably didn't register much in the minds of fight fans anywhere in the world but Indonesia, yet it was a big, big deal there as two natives fought for a world title. John, 31, got the job done against his 23-year-old challenger to make his 14th title defense of the belt he has held since 2003 -- which makes him boxing's longest-reigning active titleholder.


Saturday at Mashantucket, Conn.

Welterweight
Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto

Wins a welterweight title
Scores: 115-110, 114-112, 114-111

Records: Ortiz, 29-2-2, 22 KOs; Berto, 27-1, 21 KOs

Rafael's remark: Ortiz's talent has never been in question. The 24-year-old from Ventura, Calif. (via Kansas), looked like a can't-miss star with his exciting style, friendly personality and made-for-Hollywood backstory (he was abandoned by his parents as a kid and essentially raised his younger brother). But the rap on him was a supposed lack of heart, stemming from his actions after a tremendous slugfest with powerful Marcos Maidana in 2009. In that fight, Ortiz suddenly quit after being cut and knocked down in the sixth round -- and then made comments about how he didn't deserve to get hit during his postfight interview on HBO.

Right or wrong, that was the moment that came to define Ortiz's career, his scarlet letter. And although he went 4-0-1 in his next five fights (including a disappointing draw with Lamont Peterson in December), the Maidana fight was always front and center -- just as it was again when he moved up from junior welterweight to challenge Berto for his welterweight belt in a fight pitting a pair of past ESPN.com prospects of the year for the first time. (Ortiz won in 2008, Berto in 2006.)

If the Maidana fight was the nadir of Ortiz's career, this tremendous victory over Berto is the highlight that should erase the questions that dogged him. Ortiz (and Berto) showed huge heart in this incredible action fight, in which both guys took a lot of punishment and survived multiple knockdowns in an obvious fight of the year candidate.

Berto, 27, of Winter Haven, Fla., was making his sixth defense of what has been a title reign tarnished by massive criticism of the caliber of his hand-picked opponents. But although Berto didn't win, he probably showed more in this loss and made more fans in it than he had done in any of his wins. The fight started fast and never really let up. Berto was down in the first round -- and it should have been twice, but referee Michael Ortega missed a knockdown and ruled it a slip even though a punch clearly landed -- and then dropped Ortiz in the second round when he landed a solid right hand that forced Ortiz to touch his glove to the mat.

The sixth round was wild -- a round of the year candidate filled with action and both guys hitting the deck. Berto dropped Ortiz hard with a right hand and was dominating the round until he got reckless while going for the kill. He left himself open, and Ortiz slammed him with a left hand to score a knockdown in the final minute of the round.

Ortega lost some control of the bout as Ortiz continually hit Berto behind the head and Berto was allowed to hold. Finally, in the 10th round, Ortiz was deducted a point for yet another rabbit punch. But in the end, it didn't impact the outcome as Ortiz claimed the decision in a great fight that should eventually produce a rematch. Even if it doesn't, Ortiz has put himself into the sweepstakes for some very big business. Berto is still young and hungry, and although the loss is a setback, it will be good to get him back in action as he tries to make another run.

Junior middleweight
Deandre Latimore W8 Dennis Sharpe

Scores: 80-72 (three times)

Records: Latimore, 22-3, 17 KOs; Sharpe, 17-7-3, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: In 2009, Latimore was a rising contender matched with his St. Louis hometown rival Cory Spinks for a vacant belt, and Spinks edged him via split decision. Two fights later, in March 2010, Latimore got a chance to earn another title match when he faced Sechew Powell in an elimination bout, but he lost a majority decision. He came back a few months later for an easy win, but then was idle for nine months before scoring an easy shutout against Sharpe, a totally shot fighter who is going to get badly hurt if he keeps taking the kind of punishment he has been in recent fights.

Latimore, 25, toyed with and dished out mammoth punishment to Sharpe, 36, who had blood flying from various places on his face with every shot that landed in the later part of the fight. This was not competition. This was unadulterated, unnecessary violence. Sharpe's corner did him no favors, nor did referee Johnny Callas or the commission that approved the fight. Latimore did what he was supposed to do: thoroughly outclass Sharpe to work his way back toward another title shot.

Sharpe, of Bayonne, N.J., hasn't won since 2004. He was off from mid-2007 to 2011, but he came back in February to be crushed by prospect Peter Quillin in four rounds. For what it's worth, Latimore is calling out Paul Williams, who is need of a July 9 opponent for his HBO fight.

Welterweight
Thomas Dulorme KO2 Harrison Cuello

Records: Dulorme, 11-0, 10 KOs; Cuello, 20-16-3, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Dulorme, 21, of Puerto Rico, remains untested, but he has the look of a possible star. He has charisma, good size for his division, tremendous speed and obvious power. We'll find out how well he takes a shot when he steps up in competition, but in this early stage of his pro career he's definitely a kid to keep an eye on. He's a crowd pleaser as well, and this knockout of Cuello, 33, was of the highlight-reel variety.

Dulorme scored a flash knockdown in the second round before authoring a devastating one-punch knockout. A few seconds after the first knockdown, Dulorme connected with a picture-perfect left hand that knocked out Cuello cold. The punch landed with such authority that it was audible in the arena in a way that sounded different than most other knockout punches. Cuello, a native of the Dominican Republic living in Albany, N.Y., had to be given oxygen and was eventually taken away on a stretcher and to the hospital for precautionary reasons. Memo to Dulorme's trio of promoters, Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Javier Bustillo: More Dulorme, please.


Saturday at Manchester, England

Junior welterweight
Amir Khan W-Tech. Dec. 6 Paul McCloskey

Retains a junior welterweight title
Scores: 60-54 (three times)

Records: Garcia, 21-0, 14 KOs; Campbell, 33-8-1, 25 KOs

Rafael's remark: In December, Khan, 24, of England, survived a brutal battle with Marcos Maidana to retain his belt via decision in what was voted the 2010 fight of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. On July 23, Khan has a tentative unification fight against Timothy Bradley Jr. scheduled that will determine the king of the 140-pounders. But in between, Khan took this defense against the unheralded McCloskey, the European champion from Northern Ireland.

McCloskey, 31, had a great record, but he had yet to be tested at the highest level. Against Khan, a world-class fighter, McCloskey was tentative and did very little. In fact, he lost every round in a clear manner before a horrible ending to a poor fight. An accidental head-butt in the sixth round left McCloskey with a vertical cut on his left eyebrow. Although there was some blood dripping down McCloskey's face, let's be honest: By the usual boxing standards, this was not a bad cut. Still, referee Luis Pabon halted the fight and asked for the doctor to examine the cut. After some discussion, the fight was called off and sent to the scorecards for a technical decision that Khan, who made his fourth title defense, had obviously won by shutout.

McCloskey didn't appear to complain about the stoppage, but Pabon at least could have allowed the round to end in order to give McCloskey's corner a chance to work on the cut. At any rate, McCloskey is out of the way -- he and his promoter, Barry Hearn, can yap all they want about getting a rematch, but it ain't happening -- and Khan can move on to the fight with Bradley. Khan will be returning to the United States for that fight. Before the fight with McCloskey, Khan signed a four-fight contract extension with Golden Boy Promotions, according to CEO Richard Schaefer. That deal is tied into a contract with HBO, Schaefer said.


Saturday at Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Featherweight
Orlando Salido TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez

Wins a featherweight title

Records: Salido, 35-11-2, 23 KOs; Lopez, 30-1, 27 KOs

Rafael's remark: Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had steadfastly refused to match Lopez and fellow titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa in the one featherweight showdown fans wanted to see. It's not big enough yet, Arum would say, because he wanted $3 million from a network to make the fight. Now it's down the drain, and Arum's insistence on letting the fight "marinate" for too long looks like a very bad decision.

Lopez, 27, of Puerto Rico, is one of the sport's most exciting fighters and, because of that style, has been walking a tightrope for years. He finally fell off of it against Salido, a live dog from the moment the fight was made, who smacked Lopez around with right hands all night.

Salido, 30, of Mexico, who won his second title, dropped Lopez in the fifth round and had him reeling and in bad shape when he backed him into a corner and was firing with abandon during the eighth round of an outstanding action fight. Lopez was seemingly groggy and had eaten numerous big punches, but he was at least trying to throw back when referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. jumped in to call it off at 1 minute, 39 seconds. Given Lopez's history of comebacks and the magnitude of the fight (and the fact that Lopez had just landed a punch), it was an awfully shaky stoppage. It's unfortunate, because Salido looked like he was right on the verge of scoring a clean knockout. The questionable nature of the stoppage robbed Salido of the credit he would have gotten had the fight been allowed to continue and he scored a no-doubt knockout.

But Salido got the win anyway, giving Mexico a huge win in its never-ending rivalry with Puerto Rico. Ramirez had to be escorted out of the arena surrounded by security guards after short-circuiting the fight in Lopez's hometown, leaving the raucous crowd irate. (One spectator threw a water bottle and hit Showtime announcer Al Bernstein.)

Lopez, a former junior featherweight titlist making his third featherweight title defense, started the fight quickly and put some early rounds in the bank, but Salido bulled forward the whole fight and started to get to Lopez's shaky chin. In the fifth round, Salido landed several excellent shots, including a wicked right hand that dropped Lopez. He was staggered and shaky when the fight resumed, but he has always been able to weather the storm in the past. From there, it turned into an electrifying firefight. They went toe-to-toe in the all-action sixth and seventh rounds. Finally, in the eighth round, Salido was putting his punches together against a tiring and hurt Lopez until stopping him with the final sustained flurry to end a terrific fight, which, by the way, was 66-66 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

With a Lopez-Gamboa fight dashed, Arum said after Saturday's fight that he intended to put together a rematch between Lopez and Salido (who lost a competitive fight to Gamboa last year) in the fall. If it comes off, there is little doubt it will be another exciting fight, even if it doesn't measure close to the magnitude of Lopez-Gamboa.

Junior lightweight
Luis Cruz W10 Martin Honorio

Scores: 100-90, 98-92, 96-94

Records: Cruz, 18-0, 14 KOs; Honorio, 29-6-1, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cruz, 25, a native of Puerto Rico based in Philadelphia, was supposed to be the B-side of Showtime's opening fight against former titleholder Roman "Rocky" Martinez. But Martinez dropped out the week before the fight because of a back injury. Honorio, 31, of Mexico, came in at the last minute and Cruz was kept on the card. Cruz scored the clear victory against the one-time fringe featherweight and junior lightweight contender. Even though Honorio has seen better days, he is still the best opponent that Cruz -- whose record is padded like a comfy pillow -- has faced.

Cruz, the bigger puncher, tried to overpower Honorio with big shots, while Honorio, who has lost two of three, tried to score his points by being more active. The sixth round was quite exciting as they exchanged hard shots, with Cruz landing left hooks and uppercuts while Honorio scored nicely with his right hand. A solid win for Cruz, who needed some sort of decent name on his record. Now he has one.


Friday at Temecula, Calif.

Junior welterweight
Ruslan Provodnikov TKO8 Ivan Popoca

Records: Provodnikov, 19-1, 13 KOs; Popoca, 15-1-1, 10 KOs

Rafael's remark: Provodnikov, 27, of Russia, has become a regular on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" for a reason -- his fights are usually terrific to watch; and as a rising prospect, he is affordable. He kicked off the new season of FNF on Jan. 7 as a guy who might have been able to make a run to a title shot in 2011, but he ran into Mauricio Herrera and was surprisingly outpointed in a 12-round upset. He went home to Russia and scored an easy knockout win a month later to set himself up for a return to FNF against Chicago's Popoca, 29, who, like Provodnikov, is a crowd-pleaser.

This one figured to be action-packed, and it was -- even though Provodnikov was clearly in control. Although Popoca was giving it his all, Provodnikov was systematically breaking him down. He hurt him late in the fifth round with a left hook and dropped him with a right hand in the eighth. Popoca survived the knockdown, but Provodnikov is an excellent finisher and wouldn't let him off the hook. Provodnikov unleashed a barrage of punches, eventually prompting excellent referee Pat Russell to intervene for a perfect stoppage at 2 minutes, 16 seconds of the eighth round.

Provodnikov had brought trainer Buddy McGirt into his camp to help him prepare for the fight, and it seemed like the move worked out: McGirt used their time together to work on a jab, a punch Provodnikov has always neglected. Provodnikov fights in an exciting division and makes terrific fights. With that combination, he deserves some sort of notable fight.

Light heavyweight
Tyrell Hendrix D4 Mike Gavronski

Scores: 38-38 (twice), 40-36 Hendrix

Records: Hendrix, 5-1-2, 2 KO; Gavronski, 2-0-1, 2 KO

Rafael's remark: In an unexpected treat, Hendrix and Gavronski waged an all-action slugfest in the gem of the night. Swing fights are often an opportunity to get up and use the bathroom or grab a beverage, but this fight was worth staying put for. Gavronski, of Bellevue, Wash., looked like he might end it right away when he hurt Hendrix, of Los Angeles, early in the first round, dropping him with a series of shots. But Hendrix survived, and we were lucky for it because he rebounded to drop Gravonski before the round ended. There wasn't a lot of skill on display, but the fighters took turns throwing bombs and landing many of them in a very fun fight.


Friday at San Francisco

Junior lightweight
Eloy Perez W10 Alejandro Rodriguez

Scores: 100-90 (three times)

Records: Perez, 21-0-2, 5 KOs; Rodriguez, 12-2, 6 KOs

Rafael's remark: Perez, 24, of Salinas, Calif., scored the shutout decision in the main event of Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate" to retain his regional belt against Rodriguez, 23, of Mexico. Despite his lack of pop, Perez is still a good boxer and showed what he had in this easy victory. He was quicker than Rodriguez, jabbed when he needed to and threw enough punches to keep Rodriguez off of him as he rolled to victory. None of the rounds were all that close.

Junior lightweight
Gary Russell W6 Adolfo Landeros

Scores: 60-53 (three times)

Records: Russell, 15-0, 9 KOs; Landeros, 20-19-1, 10 KOs

Rafael's remark: Russell, the 22-year-old 2008 U.S. Olympian from Capitol Heights, Md., is one of the best prospects in boxing and just might have the quickest hands in the sport. He was supposed to fight on the undercard of the April 9 Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales card in Las Vegas, but his opponent fell out the day before the fight and it was called off. Golden Boy, Russell's promoter, quickly moved him onto this Telefutura "Solo Boxeo Tecate" card.

Unfortunately, he was facing Mexico's Landeros, 31, a no-hoper if ever there was one. He is one of Golden Boy's go-to opponents who comes to fight, but he has virtually no prayer of winning or even making his bouts all that competitive. So Russell did his thing, pounding the game Landeros, dropping him in the first round and ripping off dozens of fast, unanswered shots throughout the fight. Russell is going places. Landeros dropped to a miserable 1-9 in his past 10, but if history holds, you can count on seeing him outclassed by another Golden Boy prospect in the near future.


Friday at Buenos Aires, Argentina

Junior bantamweight
Omar Narvaez W12 Cesar Seda

Retains a junior bantamweight title
Scores: 117-110 (twice), 115-112

Records: Narvaez, 34-0-2, 19 KOs; Seda, 20-1, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Argentina's Narvaez is 35, but still going strong. He made 16 flyweight title defenses and then moved up to junior bantamweight to win a vacant belt in May 2010. He was making his second defense of that title against Seda, a highly regarded 25-year-old from Puerto Rico. On paper, this looked like it would be one of Narvaez's toughest fights in years. And although it was competitive, there was no doubt that Narvaez deserved his unanimous decision.

Seda looked good early as he outboxed Narvaez for the first few rounds. But then he seemed to go into knockout mode, looking for one big shot. He never found it, allowing Narvaez to settle into a good rhythm. Maybe Seda was overwhelmed by being on enemy turf or by the magnitude of the moment, but he allowed a winnable fight to get away from him against a disciplined and cagey veteran.

Seda was aggressive and threw a ton of punches, but he missed on many. He also lost a point for a low blow in the fifth round. Meanwhile, Narvaez picked him apart with deft counterpunching in the second half of the fight to secure yet another victory in front of his adoring fans. Seda should consider this loss a learning experience. With his youth and ability, he figures to eventually win a world title.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.