- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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LAS VEGAS -- For nine-plus rounds, Randall Bailey and Mike Jones did nothing more than look at each other, dance around the ring and decline to throw punches while the crowd booed lustily (with good reason).
After the ninth round, Bailey's corner, believing he was behind -- and he was -- was screaming at the fighter, "You got to finish him!"
Bailey did, scoring a massive 11th-round knockout to win a vacant welterweight title on Saturday night on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It had been a woeful fight, with Jones backing up and being defensive while Bailey looked to land his big punch -- a right hand that ranks as one of the best punches in boxing -- but rarely threw it.
After getting an earful from his corner following the ninth round, Bailey (43-7, 37 KOs) picked up the pace in the 10th round and eventually blinded Jones with a jab, then knocked him down with a clean right hand behind it. Jones scrambled to his feet as the round was coming to an end.
But then, in the 11th round, Bailey did what he does best: drill opponents with the right hand.
He landed a huge, flush uppercut, and Jones (26-1, 19 KOs), 29, went down in exaggerated fashion onto his back. He tried to get up, but his legs were a wreck and referee Tony Weeks called it off at 2 minutes, 52 seconds.
"I proved I could hurt him before the knockout," an emotional Bailey said. "I knew if I hit him flush, it would be over. We knew we were behind. Mike helped us out by getting brave in there, so by getting brave he set himself up for the big punches.
"I got him real good. I could feel that [uppercut] in my arm."
Bailey trailed by wide margins on all three scorecards -- 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93.
Co-promoters Russell Peltz and Top Rank had high hopes for Jones, but he has been unable to get over the hump by winning a title or being consistently crowd pleasing.
"I never saw either shot," Philadelphia's Jones said. "They were big punches. I couldn't handle it."
Bailey, 37, of Miami, won his world title -- the one that Andre Berto vacated -- 12 years after he had previously held one.
Bailey won a junior welterweight belt in 1999, made two defenses and lost it in 2000. In 2002, he briefly held an interim belt.
In 2009, Bailey was stopped in the 11th round of a world title bout by Juan Urango, after which Bailey moved up to the welterweight division, where he is now 4-0 with a no-decision.
Arce-Rojas a no-decision
Mexico's Jorge Arce and Puerto Rico's Jesus Rojas fought to a second-round no-decision in their junior featherweight bout after Arce was unable to continue following an accidental foul.
Arce, who holds a bantamweight title but was fighting a nontitle bout, started quickly, scoring a first-round knockdown against Rojas, but the fight was aborted in the next round after Rojas, 25, landed a left hand well below the belt as he was also accidentally head-butting Arce. After the butt, Arce was on his way to the mat and referee Kenny Bayless was moving in, but Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs) followed through by landing a left hand behind Arce's head.
The 32-year-old Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) -- who has won world titles in three weight classes, plus an interim belt in another -- was clearly hurt and writhing on the canvas. Bayless called a timeout, and eventually the ringside doctor came to examine Arce. After a couple of minutes of discussion between them and Nevada State Athletic Commission director Keith Kizer, the fight was waived off at 9 seconds of the round.
"I was down, felt real dizzy and was thinking I could get knocked out real bad," Arce said. "Rojas was wrong for what he did. I will go to Puerto Rico to finish him off."
Said Rojas: "I came prepared to fight a war. He didn't want to fight. When I hit him, it was a legal blow. He said he was a warrior, but he didn't show it. He felt the power and took the easy way out."
Arce took the fight at junior featherweight in anticipation that he would face titleholder Nonito Donaire in the fall if Donaire defeats Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7.
• Junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (10-0, 8 KOs) destroyed Teon Kennedy (17-2-2, 7 KOs) with ease, dropping him five times en route to a fifth-round knockout.
"This is one of my best performances," Rigondeaux said through a translator. "All of my punches are great. I don't have any bad ones."
Rigondeaux, a Cuban defector now living in Miami, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the greatest amateurs ever, was making the first defense of the 122-pound title he won Jan. 20 by knocking out Rico Ramos in the sixth round.
It was one of Rigondeaux's easiest fights, as Kennedy was never in it. Rigondeaux, 31, a southpaw with a fast left hand, let it fly, dropping Kennedy in the first round, twice in the second round, once in the fourth round and one more time in the fifth round.
After Kennedy, 25, of Philadelphia, sagged into the ropes following the fifth knockdown, referee Russell Mora called off the bout at 1 minute, 11 seconds. Kennedy fell to 0-2-1 in his past three fights.
"He has the kind of punches you can't see," Kennedy said. "They're not the hardest punches, but you just can't see them coming in."
• After a standout amateur career, Philadelphia super middleweight Jesse Hart (1-0, 1 KOs) kicked off his professional career with a 33-second demolition of Manuel Eastman (0-2).
Hart, 22, who recently signed with Top Rank, is the son of Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, a top middleweight contender during the 1970s.
Hart wasted no time assaulting Eastman, 20, of Albuquerque, N.M. Hart let his hands go immediately, nailing Eastman with blows from both hands. Eastman retreated to a corner, where Hart continued to unload, forcing referee Joe Cortez to intervene because Eastman was out on his feet and defenseless.
"I felt really strong and knew going into the fight that I would feel a little nervous, but as I got close to the ring, I built up confidence," Hart said. "When I got in there, I knew he couldn't hurt me no matter what he did. I hurt him right away with a right hand to the body. I was in such a zone. Then I touched his head [with a punch] and went right back to work."
Top Rank will keep Hart busy. He has his next two fights already scheduled against opponents to be determined, July 7 and Aug. 18, both in Atlantic City, N.J.
• Filipino featherweight Ernie Sanchez (13-3, 5 KOs) outslugged Wilton Hilario (12-3-1, 9 KOs) of St. Louis Park, Minn., to win an action-packed eight-round decision. Sanchez looked like he might make it an early night when he backed up Hilario into the ropes in the first round and hurt him repeatedly. Referee Jay Nady was close to stopping the fight, but Hilario hung in there, survived and fought back. They traded through long stretches of the fight, but Sanchez got the better of the action and won 79-73, 78-74, 78-74.
• Welterweight prospect Mikael Zewski (15-0, 11 KOs) of Canada easily disposed of Ryan Grimaldo (8-2, 5 KOs) of Fort Collins, Colo., via third-round knockout. After dominating the first two rounds and cutting Grimaldo over his left eye, Zewski did damage in the third round. He hurt Grimaldo with a left hand to the head and then again with a left to the body. Moments later, Zewski dropped him with another clean left hand. Grimaldo went down to a knee and took the full count from referee Joe Cortez, who waived it off at 59 seconds.
• Junior welterweight Andrew Ruiz (2-0, 1 KO) of Oxnard, Calif., routed Tyler Larson (0-3-1) of Las Vegas in a unanimous decision. Ruiz dropped Larson in the first round and cruised, winning 40-35, 39-36 and 39-36.
Randall Bailey looked all of his 37 years through most of Saturday's fight, but he caught prospect Mike Jones in Round 11 with a crushing uppercut that knocked him flat and won Bailey a vacant welterweight title.