Andre Ward reaffirms his elite status
A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:
Saturday at Carson, Calif.
Andre Ward W12 Arthur Abraham Super middleweight
Retains a super middleweight title
Scores: 120-108, 118-111, 118-110
Records: Ward (24-0, 13 KOs); Abraham (32-3, 26 KOs)
Rafael's remark: Another Ward fight, another masterpiece as the Oakland, Calif., fighter advanced to the final of the Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic with relative ease against an Abraham who has taken a shellacking in the round-robin tournament. Ward, 27, defended his 168-pound title for the third time, which he won in upset fashion from Mikkel Kessler in the opening round of the tournament in November 2009. Ward has been so good that he barely lost any rounds in the tournament. In fact, the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist has not lost a fight since an amateur match when he was 12. Ward has the kind of talent and ability that someday could take him to the top of the pound-for-pound list. Other than his apparent lack of power, there is no weakness in his game. He is as focused as any fighter in the world, always comes in top shape, never overlooks an opponent and can fight in a multitude of styles.
After a competitive first three rounds, Ward took total command of the fight against Abraham, 31, a native of Armenia based in Germany. He had a big portion of the crowd on his side from the large Armenian community in Southern California, but they could not help him one iota. Ward pounded Abraham to the body and pumped a strong jab throughout the fight. He also split Abraham's guard with nice uppercuts and unloaded numerous combinations. The more Ward found his rhythm, the more Abraham covered up and the more his punch output dropped as he reverted to the inactive puncher that he has been in the tournament since scoring his lone win, a 12th-round knockout of Jermain Taylor in an opening-round bout that wound up giving Abraham the three points that turned out to be enough to advance to the semifinals.
Whatever the concerns of Abraham and his promoter, Wilfried Sauerland, were about making sure there were neutral officials, it hardly mattered. Sauerland and members of Abraham's family could have served as judges and referee -- that's how dominant Ward was. Abraham has now lost three of his last four bouts, the only victory coming outside of the tournament in February, when he scored a second-round TKO against obscure Stjepan Bozic, who retired after injuring his hand.
Ward's victory was extremely convincing and reaffirmed his status as the favorite to win the tournament. In the final, which will take place in the fall at a venue to be determined, Ward will face the winner of the June 4 semifinal between titleholder Carl Froch and Glen Johnson. Ward plans to be ringside for that bout in Atlantic City, N.J. Whoever wins that fight will be the underdog against Ward, who is one of the emerging elite talents in boxing.
Cristobal Arreola TKO3 Nagy Aguilera Heavyweight
Records: Arreola (31-2, 27 KOs); Aguilera (16-6, 11 KOs).
Rafael's remark: Arreola, 30, of Riverside, Calif., was one of the more heavily hyped heavyweight contenders in recent years until he lost every round and was stopped by Vitali Klitschko in a 2009 title fight. After an easy comeback win, Arreola again lost, this time a competitive decision to top contender Tomasz Adamek. But what made Arreola's performances in those two significant fights was his conditioning. He was too heavy and not in his best shape. He was 251 against Klitschko and 250 against Adamek. For his easy win against Brian Minto in between he was 263 pounds. Even Arreola's own team was having a hard time taking him seriously. But for this fight with Aguilera, Arreola appeared to be in his best shape in years. He weighed 234 pounds, his lowest weight since he was 233 for a fight in 2007.
With his conditioning in order, Arreola took it to Aguilera from the outset. He showed good hand speed and forced Aguilera to the ropes in the first round and unloaded a variety of punches. Arreola did more of the same in the second round. Aguilera ate numerous punches and it was surprising that he made it through the second round. In the third round, Arreola trapped him along the ropes early and was painting him with lefts and rights, but Aguilera somehow managed to remain upright as referee Raul Caiz Jr. looked in closely. Aguilera survived that onslaught, but not for long. After a brief lull, Arreola was back to battering him repeatedly with vicious head shots from both hands until Caiz jumped in to call it off at 1 minute, 58 seconds of the third round. Good performance from Arreola, who can certainly earn himself another big fight with these kinds of performances and attention to his conditioning.
Aguilera, 24, a native of the Dominican Republic from Newburgh, N.Y., lost his third fight in a row and for the fourth time in five fights, including to such name opponents as Arreola, Antonio Tarver and Samuel Peter. Aguilera had made his name by scoring a shocking first-round knockout of former titlist Oleg Maskaev in December 2009, which made him an in-demand opponent for those bigger names.
Also on the undercard, a pair of Dan Goossen-promoted 2008 U.S. Olympians scored victories. Light heavyweight Shawn Estrada (12-0, 11 KOs), 26, of East Los Angeles, needed just 97 seconds of a scheduled six-rounder to knock out Joseph Gardner (7-3-1, 1 KO), 35, of Woonsocket, R.I. Junior middleweight Javier Molina (6-0, 4 KOs), 21, of Norwalk, Calif., whose career has been stymied by a chronic hand injury, rolled to a shutout four-round decision -- 40-36 on all three scorecards -- against Danny Figueroa (3-2, 2 KOs) of Hastings, Minn.
Saturday at Los Mochis, Mexico
Hugo Ruiz W12 Francisco "Panchito" Arce Bantamweight
Retains an interim bantamweight title
Scores: 114-109 (twice), 112-111
Records: Ruiz (28-1, 24 KOs); Arce (31-7-2, 20 KOs)
Rafael's remark:What a fight! Ruiz and Arce hooked up in a rivalry fight -- they are both from Los Mochis, Mexico -- and laid it all on the line in an all-action slugfest that included four knockdowns (they were both down twice), blood and unrelenting action in the best fight of the weekend. The main event of the "Top Rank Live" telecast started fast, but did not really kick into gear until late in the third round, when Arce, 29, the younger brother of newly crowned junior featherweight titlist Jorge Arce (who was ringside), floored Ruiz, 22, with a clean left hook with about 30 seconds left in the round. Round after round, they traded fierce shots, but while Arce looked like he was getting the better of the action, Ruiz was credited with a knockdown in the fifth round. Ruiz, the younger brother of fighting twins Heriberto and Edel Ruiz, threw a left hand, but it did not appear to connect. It seemed more like Arce had fallen because he had slipped on the slick advertisement in the center of the mat, yet referee Robert Hoyle ruled it a knockdown. Arce was angry and let Hoyle know it. In the opening moments of the eighth round, Arce knocked Ruiz down to his rear end with a clean left hook to the chin. Ruiz survived but looked awfully shaky. His nose was bleeding and his face was a mess from eating so many shots. Hoyle docked a point from Arce in the 10th round because of a low blow after he had previously been warned. The wildest moment of the fight came in the 11th round, when Ruiz cracked Arce with a right hand and Arce fell between the ropes and clean out of the ring for a knockdown with about 15 seconds left in the round. Arce recovered and got back in the ring in time to beat the count. It was a very close and competitive fight. Combine that fact with the great action and a rematch is called for, something promoter Fernando Beltran is already considering. As for the belt at stake, you guessed it -- one of those miserable interim WBA straps that seem to multiply like bugs on a hot day. The heinous WBA actually recognizes three titleholders in the 118-pound division, so-called "super champion" Anselmo Moreno, "regular champion" Koki Kameda and Ruiz, with his precious interim trinket.
Saturday at Durango, Mexico
Cristian Mijares W12 Carlos Rueda Junior bantamweight
Retains a junior bantamweight title
Scores: 120-108 (twice), 118-110
Records: Mijares (42-6-2, 18 KOs); Rueda (16-5-1, 13 KOs)
Rafael's remark: Mijares, 29, of Mexico, was climbing the pound-for-pound list after a series of quality victories in 2007 and 2008 in defense of his junior bantamweight belt. He even unified a pair of titles, but then was cut down by Vic Darchinyan in the ninth round of a three-belt unification bout in November 2008. Mijares then moved up to bantamweight and lost two more fights, both to Nehomar Cermeño. With three losses in a row, Mijares was left for dead by many, but continued to fight. Now, he is back at junior bantamweight and on a six-fight winning streak after dominating Nicaragua's Rueda, 27, a late substitute. In December, Mijares claimed a 115-pound belt when he outpointed Mexican countryman Juan Alberto Rosas. He was supposed to make his first defense against mandatory challenger Raul Martinez of San Antonio. However, Martinez suffered a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose during training and dropped out of the bout a couple of weeks ago. In came Rueda as the last-minute opponent and Mijares rolled to the points win. Mijares is still obligated to face Martinez.
Friday at Santa Ynez, Calif.
Kendall Holt TKO3 Julio Diaz Junior welterweight
Records: Holt (27-4, 15 KOs); Diaz (38-7, 27 KOs)
Rafael's remark: This "Friday Night Fights" main event on ESPN2 was the epitome of a crossroads fight. Holt and Diaz, both former titleholders, were each in dire need of a notable victory to keep their dreams of another title shot and money fight alive. Holt, 29, of Paterson, N.J., is a former junior welterweight titlist, but he lost his belt to Timothy Bradley Jr. in April 2009 and then lost a second fight in a row when he was dominated by South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza in a February 2010 title eliminator before bouncing back with a low-level first-round knockout in January on the same card on which Diaz also scored a win. Diaz, 31, of Coachella, Calif., was also trying to get rolling again after back-to-back losses to Rolando Reyes and Victor Cayo in 2009. The former two-time lightweight titleholder had won two in a row, including on the card in January, before squaring off with Holt. This fight had major implications for both, and it was Holt who put himself back in a good position. They fought essentially on even terms through the first two-plus rounds. Holt landed a couple of nice right hands in the first round, but nothing too damaging. An accidental head clash also opened a cut over Diaz's left eye. The big question was who was going to land the first really big punch? Both have power, but also have liabilities in their chins. It turned out to be Holt who got to the target first, landing a sweet left hand to the jaw that floored Diaz, who never saw the shot coming. He struggled to his feet, beating the count, but was in bad shape, and referee Marcos Rosales called it off at 2 minutes, 37 seconds. It was a career-reviving victory for Holt, who should figure prominently as a possible opponent for some of the top names in a deep weight class. For Diaz, it was a bad loss that figures to set back what is left of his career.
Friday at Primm, Nev.
Sharif Bogere W10 Raymundo Beltran Lightweight
Scores: 97-93, 96-94 (twice)
Records: Bogere (20-0, 12 KOs); Beltran (24-5, 16 KOs)
Rafael's remark: Bogere, a 22-year-old prospect born in Uganda and living in Las Vegas, was taking on his most formidable opponent in the main event of Showtime's "ShoBox." And he sure got his toughest fight. Frankly, this was not the best decision ever -- you can certainly make the case that Beltran deserved the nod in a bloody, nip-and-tuck fight -- but it was one heck of an entertaining scrap. Beltran applied all kinds of pressure while Bogere, a five-time African amateur champion, used his speed and voluminous punch output to make for a highly competitive fight. Showtime announcers Curt Menefee and Steve Farhood had it a draw, and keep in mind that Beltran was robbed of an eighth-round knockdown. He clipped Bogere with a left uppercut that hurt Bogere and forced him to grab on and basically tackle Beltran to the mat. But referee Robert Byrd did not rule a knockdown. Although it was an exciting fight, it was also marred by numerous head butts that stunted the flow of the action. Beltran suffered a cut near his left eye in the third round and Bogere was cut badly over his left eye in the fourth round. Another head butt caused a bloody cut by Beltran's hairline in the ninth round. Beltran, 29, who was born in Mexico but is based in Los Angeles and was one of Manny Pacquiao's sparring partners as he prepared for his May 7 bout against Shane Mosley, had his two-fight winning streak snapped. Bogere got out of the ring with a debatable, but hard-earned win, and hopefully valuable experience as he makes his way up the ladder.
Seth Mitchell KO1 Evans Quinn Heavyweight
Records: Mitchell (22-0-1, 16 KOs); Quinn (20-6-1, 18 KOs).
Rafael's remark: We all know there is a dearth of talent in the heavyweight division, especially when it comes to Americans. But Mitchell, 28, a former Michigan State linebacker who found boxing after a knee injury derailed his pro football ambitions, is widely regarded as the best of the American heavyweight prospects. That meant this was a big showcase for him since it was on the national television platform of Showtime's "ShoBox" and likely would be the first time many fight fans would be getting a chance to see him. For his part, Mitchell, 28, of Brandywine, Md., looked great in the easy victory. However, it is hard to give Mitchell all that much credit because of the complete non-effort by Quinn, 27, of Nicaragua. He simply quit in a brutally disappointing performance. Quinn entered the fight seemingly as a legitimate test for Mitchell. Quinn had won two bouts in a row, but more importantly, he acquitted himself very well in a ninth-round knockout loss to former titlist Sergei Liakhovich and a decision loss to perennial fringe contender Kali Meehan in his two fights before that. Mitchell snapped a nice jab and took a few decent shots from Quinn before cranking it up. Mitchell eventually connected with a flurry of punches to the body and head, but certainly nothing that would be deemed as a serious knockout shot. But Quinn apparently was in no mood to fight and went down to a knee from no particular punch. Referee Joe Cortez counted while Quinn looked at him and shook his head until pathetically being counted out at 2 minutes, 38 seconds. As soon as the count was over, Quinn was right back on his feet looking quite fresh. It is a shame his miserable performance robbed Mitchell of a potentially satisfying knockout or, at least, some actual competition. The result, of course, is no knock on Mitchell. Quinn can go away forever. Let's see Mitchell back in a televised fight as soon as possible against a better grade of opponent.
Friday at Salinas, Puerto Rico
Mike Perez TKO3 Ira Terry Lightweight
Records: Perez (13-0-1, 7 KOs); Terry (24-5, 14 KOs)
Rafael's remark: Perez, 21, is a former amateur standout from Newark, N.J., but his family is from Puerto Rico, where Golden Boy is trying to help him build a fan base. That is why he was fighting there for the third consecutive fight and headlining on Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate." Perez had easy work against Terry, 24, of Memphis, Tenn., who has a good record, but one that was built against extremely low-level opposition. Now he is being used to pad the records of prospects as he dropped his third bout in a row, each by knockout inside four rounds. Perez dropped Terry in the second round with a right hand to the shoulder and a left hand. Perez then finished him with a flush right hand to the chin -- the referee was jumping in to stop it before Terry even went down -- at 2 minutes, 19 seconds of the third round in a strong performance. Terry, his lip bleeding, was on the canvas for several minutes before collecting himself after the big knockout.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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