Late reporting aside, the ESPN card on Saturday night was a good night of mostly competitive boxing. The main card paired rebounding failed title challengers Joet Gonzalez and Egidijus Kavaliauskas in tough rebound match-ups. From a broadcast standpoint ESPN brought back Tim Bradley to The Bubble after weeks of working remotely. Mark Kriegel joined as well and Andre Ward was absent. On the broadcast Bradley doubled down on his comments regarding Herring quitting which I addressed in a post last week.
Kavaliauskas Scores Dramatic 8th Round KO
Egidijus Kavaliauskas (EK) won a tough outing on Saturday versus Canadian Mikael Zewski. EK is 32 and fights out of Lithuania and was looking to bounce back after his first career defeat against Terrance Crawford in December 2019. Zewski is a tough 31 year old fighter who was on a five year unbeaten streak following his lone loss in May of 2015. Zewski had over 50 more rounds as a pro and and 13 more fights and the experience showed. Zewski is not an elite fighter or near the level of the top guys at welterweight but he can punch and showed the instincts of a tough fighter.
The first round saw a no feel out approach as both men let their hands go with hard punches early in the bout. In round 2 EK began to really work his jab which would be a focal point of his approach to dealing with Zewski. It was a consistent and effective jab but ultimately EK had a hard time transitioning off the jab into a wider offense. This caused him to struggle offensively and losene some rounds. I think it also created a dynamic of Zewski expecting jabs and attempting to A: counter the jab and B: not expect a follow up shot and aggressively follow EK jab. The fourth saw swelling begin to form under the left eye for EK and Zewski had a solid round. He landed a double jab followed by alternating hooks to the body. Moments later he landed a lead right hook.
EK had a strong fifth round that started off with him catching a powerful left hook with his right glove. EK started to focus his efforts on the body in this round. Near the end of the round he nailed Zewski with a solid overhand right to the head. The sixth featured several intense exchanges and was fought spiritedly by both men. Down the stretch of the round EK continued to pound away with his jab and started to distance himself from Zewski who began to fade. The seventh was the breaking point in the fight. Zewski started off effectively with a hard left hook counter to the head but EK kept coming. The beginning of the end was a left hook to the body from EK that caused Zewski to just freeze in place staring briefly at “Mean Machine”. Without much time left in the round EK landed a hard uppercut underneath a jab from Zewski. Zewski was in rough shape as he fell into the ropes. EK stepped up the pressure and kept punching in a violent two handed assault until Zewski wilted to the canvas. He was up just in time to hear the bell and probably would have been waved off by many referees. The minute break was not long enough to allow Zewski to clear his head and much like Joe Smith Jr’s KO of Eleider Alvarez, EK marched out and just ended the fight seconds into the round. The two touched gloves to started the round and EK shot a left hook that corralled Zewski toward the ropes and more importantly a fight ending right hook that dropped him to a knee.
Judges Cheatham and Jarman had Zewski ahead 67-65 which I was a little surprised by. Not a horrible score but not the way I saw it. Kavaliauskas is with ESPN and admitted to the ESPN crew in the fighter meeting that he knows getting one of the top welters on PBC is a tall order. He already fought Crawford for the WBO title in a fight that does not have anyone clamoring for a rematch. I’m not quite sure what his play is but he may have to fight on another platform or lure over another fighter on to his. Politics may be a big impediment to Kavaliauskas’s future. Despite his victory he showed plenty of vulnerability in the ring.
Joet Gonzalez has a Career Day vs Miguel Marriaga
Back in October the 26 year old Gonzalez was comprehensively taken apart by Shakur Stevenson in a WBO featherweight title fight. He lost practically every second of the contest and was made to look completely lost and ineffectual. This past Saturday we saw a much better Gonzalez as he dominated 33 year old Colombian Veteran Miguel Marriaga. Marriaga entered the ring with a 29-3 record with 25 knockouts which is very common of many Colombian punchers to enter the states with a high KO percentage. His three losses were all in title fights and all against elite fighters like Nicholas Walters, Oscar Valdez and Vasiliy Lomachenko. This seemed like a great measuring stick match up for Gonzalez to see how he could perform in relation to the aforementioned fighters. For Marriaga 2020 has been a year of disappointments as his title fight with Stevenson fell apart right as COVID struck in March and if the pandemic began a week or two later he may have gotten his chance. He lost out on a big pay day and title shot only to have his follow up fight fall through when his opponent missed with by nine pounds. With a lot to risk Marriaga entered the ring aggressively and was a on the attack in the first two rounds.
Gonzalez showed great poise in the ring and dazzled with adept defense and crisp punching. After seemingly being too passive in the opening two rounds Gonzalez began to open the offense up and began to score at will. On defense Gonzalez used his hands to catch Marriaga’s punches rather than just put up the shell of blocking behind a guard. The precision at which he caught the incoming punches was very impressive. In round three the tide shifted and never shifted back as Gonzalez tagged Marriaga with a dart of a right cross that seemed to momentarily rock the Colombian. Round 4 saw a nice series with Joet going with a sharp 1-2 followed by a right hand lead into a 1-2 head then body. Impressively, Marriaga fired back only to catch the quick moving gloves of Gonzalez who ran away with the round. In the sixth Gonzalez employed left hook counters to the head as he moved off the traditional jab and right hand he had been building a lead behind.
Marriaga’s corner begged him to show some movement and create angles. Marriaga opened the seventh round on the move but it was not enough to offset Gonzalez. Gonzalez was just a relentless stalker in this fight as he pressed the action at every turn and attempted to overwhelm his older adversary. The eighth round ended with referee Robert Hoyle asking Marriaga to “show me something”, the same was uttered to begin the ninth. Marriaga had a spirited ninth round despite losing it, Gonzalez was cut around the right eye. Marriaga had a better tenth but in the final minute Gonzalez came alive and seemed to hurt Marriaga who struggled to the finish line. I scored a shutout 100-90 with Lisa Giampa having it 97-93 and Moretti and Weisfeld having lopsided 99-91 scores. The only way Gonzalez could have been more impressive would have been a stoppage. Did he do enough to wipe away the loss to Stevenson, I think he may have. He looked very sharp and well rounded on Saturday. I don’t think he would win a rematch against Shakur but he certainly looked better. Stevenson would have embarrassed Marriaga.
Aleem Jumakhonov Takes it to taller Jorge Ramos in 3rd Round KO
Featherweights Jumakhonov and Ramos faced off in an interesting battle of early pros looking to get on track. Jumakhonov recently lost in the Bubble in July by majority decision and Ramos fell by split decision in his most previous outing back in March. Jumakhonov is a 27 year old fighter from Tajikistan and Ramos is a 21 year old from California who stands a tall 5’10” for a featherweight. Ramos is a little like Riddick Bowe in the sense that he has a good height advantage but either does not understand how to use it or does not want to use it. Ramos also had a striking resemblance to the Diaz brothers of UFC fame.
Jumakhonov got inside immediately in the first round and imposed his tough inside work on an obliging Ramos. Ramos struggled to get a jab going and Jumakhonov went to work with a well timed overhand right. There was an interesting finish to the first round as Ramos just languished on the ropes with about twenty seconds to go and just let Jumakhonov do what ever he wanted. Aleem flicked out these bait punches to elicit a reaction with Jorge’s hands and then focused hard shots to the openings he created. He used this tactic throughout the fight and it is something I have seen volume punchers like Paul Williams employ along with careful defensive boxers like Guillermo Rigondeaux. The second round was a good back and forth round that favored Jumakhonov who continued to work his overhand right. Jumakhonov came out aggressively as Ramos continued to struggle in close. Ramos was hurt by a solid right uppercut and then dropped. Interestingly they had his mother in the frame being interviewed as her son was put to the canvas and counted out. Rare to see such raw emotion caught in the corner like that on a broadcast. Ramos was hit by an overhand right as he swung his own shot and after a delay fell to his knees. It’s tough to say whether he was knocked out or gave up. He watched the count reach ten without trying to rise only to get up shaking his head. Aleem Jumakhonov just broke him down and took his will away.
Manuel Flores Wears Down Johnathan Rodriguez in Bantamweight Battle of the Undefeated’s
Both men entered the ring at 8-0 and 21 years of age in this east meets west prospect showdown. Flores of Coachella, California wore down the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native on to a fifth round technical knockout. An overhand left in the fifth stunned Rodriguez who stood straight up and had his two hands out in front of his face. He took a few more punches as his feet did not appear to be under him. The fight was waved off with Rodriguez still standing. It was a quick sequence but I think the referee made a good call in calling it. My 39-36 card was wider than the split 38-37’s turned in by the real judges. Basically 2-2 in rounds with an advantage of the knockdown. Cheatham at 38-37 for Rodriguez would have had it 3-1 with the knockdown tightening it which I do not agree with. Rodriguez threw quite a few good overhand rights in the contest and had his best work with right cross leads. At times Flores was quite vulnerable to this punch. The knockdown was off a short right hook counter and was more of a flash than a real damaging blow. Flores for the taller man worked a lot inside event weaving in to land to the body in inside exchanges. Despite giving away his height he was defensively sound and worked hard with scoring blows in close.
Anthony Chavez Outlasts Adan Gonzalez in a Unanimous Decision
Anthony Chavez survived a early scare in round one to claim a competitive unanimous decision. Adan Gonzalez fought a spirited effort and despite his now 5-4 -2 ring record he is a tough out for whomever he fights. Gonzalez entered as a 23 year old spoiler who blemished Gold Medalist Robeisy Ramirez in his pro debut and has a 2-1-2 record against undefeated fighters. Despite his age and amount of fights Gonzalez continues to draw difficult assignments and continues to be a hard nosed gamer in there. Chavez entered off a loss to the aforementioned Aleem Jumakhonov.
Gonzalez was strong out of the gate with a solid left right combination followed by a right hand that had Chavez on the canvas. Chavez was a little lazy with his left hand and left continued openings for Gonzalez to capitalize on. In between rounds the replay would show a headbutt come in first and the punch coming in seconds. Eventually four rounds later the commission decided to not rule it a knockdown. The second round was fought on fairly even footing and in round three Chavez got revenge. Gonzalez started the round darting around the ring in reverse. He may have been trying to lure Chavez into a trap but as the shorter fighter it would seem he could be better suited inside. Chavez to his credit had fast hands that could win the up close exchanges. A left hook caught a very squared up Gonzalez way out of position and he fell desperately into the ropes and almost out of the ring. He tried to get up quickly but slipped around a little and it was tough to tell if he was on a slippery spot or hurt.
After three rounds it looked close to even at the halfway point with two 10-8 rounds and a “could go either way” type of second round there was a lot in play for the last three rounds. Chavez cut from the mouth never once panicked as he fought with the patience of an experienced veteran of the professional ranks. At times a low work rate and lax defense made him appear too comfortable but he made it work in there. Gonzalez on the other hand fought a very tense fight with hard looping punches but he also tired down the stretch. I had it 58-55 for Chavez in complete agreement with the judges.
Eric Puente Hears Final Bell in 4 Round Decision Win
The twenty one year old prospect from California advances to 4-0 all by decision as he again goes all four rounds. He has a patient style which lends credence to 0% KO ratio but I have a feeling as he goes into longer scheduled contests he may start scoring more stoppages. Puente does a good job analyzing his opponents before going on the offensive. He has a nice 1-2 and a good 1-2 with a left uppercut at the end. That particular combination always reminds me of Juan Manuel Marquez. Puente cruised to a 40-36 score on my card and two judges echoed that score with on dissenter at a clear 39-36. Puente in addition to offensive prowess showed a nice shoulder roll guard with his right hand always in a good defensive posture and he slipped and used head movement to avoid being hit clean. Looking forward to Top Rank featuring this kid more.
Anthony Yarde Scores 2nd Stoppage in a row since Kovalev Loss
Anthony Yarde was a hyped up prospect who got his shot at a WBO light heavyweight title while still very green and under proven. He lost a late round stoppage whilst completely exhausted but accounted himself very well. He even had Kovalev rocked to his core and punched himself out going for the kill. Yarde is a massive light heavyweight and shook off the loss, lay off and family tragedy of COVID-19 to stop 16-3 Dec Spelman in the sixth round. In a mostly one sided fight Spelman landed a right hand here or there but was largely out classed. The contest was waved off as a standing TKO but Spelman appeared more than capable of continuing. Yarde hardly had a real name on his record prior to a title shot with Kovalev and does not have one since. I get building a guy up but light heavyweight is loaded with talent and good match ups. Yarde had Kovalev in trouble and fought deep into the fight. I would imagine his team would have more confidence in matching him a little tougher than he has been.