Abril victimized by bad decision
A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:
Saturday at Mexico City
Juan Manuel Marquez W12 Sergey Fedchenko Junior welterweight
Wins a vacant interim junior welterweight title
Scores: 119-109, 118-110 (twice)
Records: Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs); Fedchenko (30-2, 13 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Coming off November's controversial majority decision loss in a welterweight title bout against Manny Pacquiao -- the third controversial result of their epic trilogy -- Marquez desperately wanted a fourth fight with his great rival. It did not happen because Pacquiao and Top Rank's Bob Arum instead picked junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. for Pacquiao to fight on June 9. Marquez was disappointed and considered retirement, but (not surprisingly) he got over that and decided to fight on. But with no big-name opponent available -- he still hopes for Pacquiao again in November -- Marquez, 38, returned to Mexico City, his hometown where he had not fought since 1994, his second year as a professional.
Even though Marquez was facing the unknown Fedchenko, 31, of Ukraine, he was motivated to be at home and to be in the first sports event at the new Mexico City Arena, which drew a raucous crowd of 22,400 for his homecoming.
Marquez, the true professional that he is, came in in tremendous shape even though it might be understandable if he was not at his best, because this was the classic sort of "in between fight." He was coming off a mega fight and has another possible big one on his mind, but that did not stop Marquez from looking sharp as he settled into the junior welterweight division in the main event of Top Rank's split-site pay-per-view card that also featured fights from Las Vegas.
Marquez, a former three-division champion, picked up an interim belt to make him a quasi four-division titleholder as he easily outboxed and outslugged the game Fedchenko, who had little to keep Marquez off him and had almost no offense to speak of. Although a good boxer, Fedchenko was nowhere near Marquez's level and seemed like he wanted just to survive in the late going.
Marquez bloodied his nose and methodically beat him up round after round, although Fedchenko never seemed in danger of being knocked down or knocked out, even though Marquez never stopped gunning for it. There were some good exchanges and Marquez's fans seemed to dig what they were seeing as he rolled to the victory.
Although Marquez hopes for a fourth Pacquiao fight in the fall, plans are in the works for him to return July 14 to headline a pay-per-view card at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Top Rank has mentioned Brandon Rios as a possible opponent, but Rios looked horrible in a highly controversial split decision victory against Richard Abril in the Las Vegas portion of the pay-per-view. Other possibilities include Mike Alvarado, who won a sensational battle on the Las Vegas part of the show, and Mercito Gesta, who also won in Las Vegas (but is nowhere near ready for Marquez). And maybe, just maybe, Top Rank can reunite with Mexican legend Erik Morales and put on that fight, one so many have wanted to see for years.
Saturday at Las Vegas
Brandon Rios W12 Richard Abril Lightweight
A lightweight title remains vacant
Scores: 116-112, 115-113 Rios, 117-111 Abril
Records: Rios (30-0-1, 21 KOs); Abril (17-3-1, 8 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: There are controversial decisions, bad decisions and then there are outright robberies. This was an outright robbery, a theft of the highest order which should simply be viewed as an Abril victory. The outpouring of anger toward the decision was overwhelming on social media, as it should have been, because the decision was a farce. It was probably the second-worst decision I have seen in 13 years of covering boxing, beaten only by the shameful split decision Joel Casamayor was given against Jose Armando Santa Cruz in a 2007 lightweight championship fight.
Abril took Rios to school and had the decision stolen from him plan and simple in front of 3,705 at Mandalay Bay and the Top Rank pay-per-view audience. While judge Adalaide Byrd's 117-111 scorecard in favor of Abril reflected reality, the cards from Jerry Roth (116-112) and Glenn Trowbridge (115-113) were shockingly bad and an utter absurdity. You could make more of an argument that Abril won the fight by shutout than you could give seven -- or even eight! -- legitimate rounds to Rios, who was lethargic and lacked snap on what few punches he threw. He did nothing to actually win rounds because he barely landed anything. Abril, meanwhile, controlled the fight from start to finish with superb ring generalship. His defense was terrific as used the shoulder tuck the same way Floyd Mayweather Jr. does so expertly. Rarely did Rios land anything clean. And while the long and lanky Abril did do some holding, he also landed a lot of well-timed right hands, long jabs and combinations while essentially standing in front of Rios and almost daring him to hit him. Abril, 29, a Cuban living in Miami, may not be the flashiest fighter or the most exciting, but since when does that have anything to do with scoring a fight?
Rios, 25, of Oxnard, Calif., looked as bad as he ever has after a series of quality wins. But he should not have been trying to make 135 pounds anymore. It showed in his performance. He blew weight for the second fight in a row; at Friday's weigh-in, he scaled 137 pounds -- two heavier than the lightweight limit -- and was ineligible to win the vacant title. Abril, the interim titleholder, could win it (and should have). But even after Rios left the scale with time to still make the weight, he was 139 pounds when he came back. Why he and his team elected to try for 135 pounds again is a mystery, especially after Rios looked like he was on the verge of collapsing from trying to make weight in December but missing the mark.
Rios was stripped of his title then and was going to try to win it back against Abril. But a lack of professionalism and maturity caused him to miss 135 again. Of course, he tried. Nobody is saying that he did not put in work to make the weight. But he and his team, including manager Cameron Dunkin and trainer Robert Garcia, obviously should never have accepted the bout at 135 pounds in the first place. Once they did, it was his obligation to make it. They probably took it at 135 because Rios was originally supposed to face former unified featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa in a major HBO bout. However, Gamboa bailed on the day of the March news conference to announce the fight and Abril -- who had gotten into a scuffle with Rios at that Miami news conference -- was brought in to replace him (and the card was shifted from HBO to a Top Rank pay-per-view card when HBO decided it was not interested in Rios-Abril).
Abril should not be forgotten after this career-best performance. He deserves another opportunity. Rios is obviously destined to fight at junior welterweight, where he will probably be a lot stronger since he won't have to kill himself to make (miss?) weight. But in trying to do so to fight Abril, Rios was utterly ineffective and he has nobody to blame but himself, even if two judges were watching a different fight than most everybody else. That has happened far too much in boxing lately. Just in the past couple of months, we've already seen controversial outcomes in the James Kirkland-Carlos Molina and Tavoris Cloud-Gabriel Campillo bouts. But those are child's play compared to this disgraceful decision.
Mike Alvarado W10 Mauricio Herrera Junior welterweight
Scores: 99-91, 97-93, 96-94
Records: Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs); Herrera (18-2, 7 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: What a fight! Alvarado and Herrera not only made the best fight of the night on this Top Rank pay-per-view card and the best fight of the weekend, but they put in the blood, sweat and toe-to-toe combat to be talked about as a candidate for fight of the year after this all-action slugfest. For Alvarado, 31, of Denver, it was his second memorable battle in a row.
In November, Alvarado was badly cut and trailing when he rallied to stop Breidis Prescott in the 10th and final round in thrilling fashion on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III pay-per-view undercard. This time, Alvarado was leading most of the way but in an all-out brawl with Herrera, 31, of Riverside, Calif. Herrera made a bit of a name for himself 15 months ago when he upset prospect Ruslan Provodnikov via decision on "Friday Night Fights."
This fight was bombs away early and often. Herrera's face was showing marks by the second round as Alvarado was landing right hands on his left eye. The second and third rounds were hellacious, round-of-the-year kinds of rounds with unrelenting action. Herrera, who elected to fight off the ropes while Alvarado pressured him, began to bust up Alvarado's right eye in the fourth round. Herrera's nose was bleeding in the fifth round. Alvarado seemed to shift into another gear in the second half of the fight. Herrera was doing everything he could do to stay with him, but his left eye was a swollen mess by the seventh round and he probably could not see much out of it. Both men showed tremendous heart in a terrific fight, even though Herrera -- who earned every dime of his $20,000 purse as did Alvarado of his $95,000 purse -- deserved better than one judge having him lose nine out of the 10 rounds.
By stealing the show on a night when Brandon Rios looked terrible, Alvarado made a strong case that it is he, not Rios, who deserves a July 14 crack at Marquez. That is when Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is planning a pay-per-view card at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Alvarado has put in the hard rounds, fought his way up the ladder and he deserves an opportunity. Afterward, Arum said he would be considered for Marquez and Alvarado made his case. "I want Marquez. I am ready for Marquez. I have paid my dues and I do not have any weight issues," he said, referring to Rios' blowing weight for a second straight fight.
Mercito Gesta TKO8 Oscar Cuero Lightweight
Records: Gesta (25-0-1, 13 KOs); Cuero (15-8, 12 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Gesta, 24, a native of the Philippines based in San Diego, has been with Top Rank for a few fights and opened the pay-per-view card with a solid victory against Cuero, 26, of Colombia. It was not a spectacular performance, but he got the job done in workmanlike fashion, dropping Cuero twice. He attacked Cuero's body well and landed good right hands. In the fifth round, referee Robert Byrd was a bit overzealous in docking a point from Cuero for holding. It hardly mattered because Gesta was in control. Cuero absorbed a lot of shots and looked very weary going back to his corner after the sixth round. In the seventh round, Gesta, a southpaw, dropped him with a right hook to the body. Cuero's pride got him to his feet by nine but he was falling apart. In the eighth round, Gesta landed a right to the temple that sent Cuero down to a knee. He got up, but he was toast and Byrd stopped the fight at 1 minute, 38 seconds. The loss was Cuero's sixth in his last eight fights but first in that span by knockout. Gesta is not ready for it, but before this fight his name had been mentioned by Top Rank as a possible July opponent for Juan Manuel Marquez. That is way too much right now. Gesta needs more work and a couple of legit opponents before he earns a shot like that.
Saturday at Belfast, Northern Ireland
Tyson Fury TKO5 Martin Rogan Heavyweight
Records: Fury (18-0, 13 KOs); Rogan (14-3, 7 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Fury is a heavyweight to keep an eye on. His name has been tossed around as a possible future opponent for champions Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko (although it is way too soon right now) and he already owns a win against Dereck Chisora. At 23, Fury is also one of the younger rising big men, and we do mean big. He is 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, which was actually a career low. For this fight, Fury, of England, went to the hometown of Ireland's Rogan, a 40-year-old journeyman who, despite only 17 fights, has faced some of the United Kingdom's best, including wins against Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton and two losses to Sam Sexton. In his first fight in 16 months, Rogan, who is 6-3, 228 pounds and is a Belfast taxi driver when he is not boxing, gave Fury all kinds of problems in the early rounds. For some reason, Fury decided to box as a southpaw and it did not work very well. Rogan easily won the first two rounds while Fury looked tentative and was in a bit of a defensive shell. But he came out of it in the third round and dropped Rogan with a clean straight left hand to turn things around, although Rogan did not appear badly hurt. In the fifth round, however, he was hurt. Fury was softening up Rogan with body shots and finally floored him again with a left to the body that sent him to all fours. Rogan barely beat the count from referee David Irving, who was going to let the fight continue, when, just as the round was about to end, Rogan's corner stepped in to the ring to throw in the towel. Rogan was not a happy camper either. It seemed like an ill-timed resignation, especially with the one-minute rest period upon them. After a poor start, Fury came back strong and got a nice victory over Rogan, who dropped to 2-3 in his last five bouts.
Saturday at Chicago
Edner Cherry W10 Juan Carlos Martinez Lightweight
Scores: 99-91, 97-93, 95-95
Records: Cherry (30-6-2, 16 KOs); Martinez (19-14-1, 7 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: For years, Cherry, 29, a native of the Bahamas living in Florida, has been on the fringes of contending but he has lost whenever he has stepped up against the best competition, including decisions to Paulie Malignaggi in 2007 and to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a 2008 junior welterweight world title bout. But since the lopsided loss to Bradley, "Cherry Bomb" is 6-0 with a no contest after a tougher than expected majority decision nod against Martinez, 30, of Mexico, who lost his second consecutive fight and is 2-3 in his last five bouts. Fighting in the main event of Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate," Cherry and Martinez took turns being in charge during the decent scrap. Cherry seemed to do enough to maintain control for the most part and fought very well late in the fight, especially in the 10th round, to seal the deal. However, 99-91 for Cherry on one scorecard seemed very, very generous.
Friday at Las Vegas
Albert Mensah W10 Michael Katsidis Junior welterweight
Scores: 98-92, 96-94, 95-95
Records: Mensah (20-3-1, 7 KOs); Katsidis (28-6, 23 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Katsidis, 31, of Australia, has been one of the true warriors of boxing for years and one of the most crowd-pleasing fighters in modern history. But all those brutal and exciting fights have taken their toll and now, after his latest loss, he just might be done. He said before the fight that he would consider retirement if he lost.
Katsidis had fought as a lightweight for most of his career but was moving up to junior welterweight to stay after losing a world title fight by decision to Ricky Burns in November. Katsidis was hoping this fight would re-ignite his fading career (and he was without career-long manager and trainer Brendon Smith, with whom he split following the loss to Burns). But Mensah, 29, of Ghana, had other ideas and turned in a strong performance in the "Friday Night Fights" main event. Katsidis, of course, tried to pressure Mensah from the opening bell, but Mensah, fighting in the United States for the second consecutive fight, did a superb job countering Katsidis and firing back. It was a competitive fight and Katsidis had his moments, including when he appeared to have Mensah in serious trouble near the end of the seventh round. But the bell rang and Mensah was able collect himself for the next round. He dominated the last couple of rounds, landing numerous clean shots, including a pair of left hands that really rocked Katsidis at the end of the ninth round. Katsidis seemed to be fighting almost on instinct in the late going and the decision seemed like an obvious call, although the 98-92 scorecard appeared a bit wide while the 95-95 card seemed a bit generous for Katsidis.
While Mensah notched the biggest win of his career, Katsidis dropped to 1-4 in his last five bouts, a rut that includes losses to Mensah, Burns, Robert Guerrero and Juan Manuel Marquez in a lightweight championship fight. If Katsidis does call it a career, there will be many memorable fights to look back on.
Friday at Cologne, Germany
Felix Sturm TKO9 Sebastian Zbik Middleweight
Retains a middleweight title
Records: Sturm (37-2-2, 16 KOs); Zbik (30-2, 10 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: In his previous two bouts, Sturm, 33, of Germany, got an outright gift split decision victory against Mathew Macklin last June and was then held to a draw by Martin Murray in December. Sturm had hung onto his belt, but both performances were lackluster and many thought that maybe his downslide had begun. But maybe that was a premature notion because Sturm looked as good as he has in years against Zbik, 30, also of Germany. Zbik had not fought since last June, when he went to Los Angeles and lost a majority decision and his paper title to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO. He put in a very solid performance against Chavez, but came up just short. Sturm, however, made his 12th title defense by pounding him into submission. Zbik got off to a good start and the fight seemed about even through the first four rounds. But then Sturm got his outstanding left jab working and took over the fight. He threw combinations, landed a number of solid uppercuts and worked both hands well. The jab, however, his best punch, was the difference. He tattooed Zbik with it while Zbik was simply unable to get off enough punches to do any damage. By the fifth round, Zbik's face was showing the marks of consistently being hit cleanly with Sturm's jab. Sturm was in full control, dishing out punishment and masterfully outworking Zbik, who retired on his stool after the ninth round knowing he was a beaten man in what had a been a more entertaining fight than many thought it would be given the technical styles of both men. Sturm ran his record to 12-0-2 in his last 14 fights (if you include the Macklin robbery) but now faces the prospect of a mandatory defense against "regular" titlist Gennady Golovkin, whose pressure style, youth and power could give Sturm trouble.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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