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Monday, June 9, 2008
It's reality: Mora becomes first 'Contender' to win world title

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Sergio Mora and Vernon Forrest
Forrest, left, chided Mora at every opportunity before their fight, but it was Mora who had the last word.


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

Saturday at Uncasville, Conn.
Junior middleweight
Sergio Mora W12 Vernon Forrest
Wins a junior middleweight title
Scores: 116-112, 115-113, 114-114
Records: Mora, 21-0-1, 5 KOs; Forrest, 40-3, 29 KOs
Rafael's remark: Few fighters have taken more abuse from fans and media for the decisions they have made than Mora, the otherwise likeable first season winner of "The Contender" reality series. There were long layoffs resulting from turning fights down. When he was offered an undeserved shot at then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor for almost $1 million, Mora accepted, only to pull out because he refused to fight in Memphis, which he believed was too close to Taylor's hometown in Little Rock, Ark., for him to get a fair shake. Mora became a laughingstock. Then came a lackluster performance in a draw against journeyman Elvin Ayala in October. The "Latin Snake" was derisively called "The Latin Fake" by some who regarded him as nothing more than a "reality series" fighter, not a serious professional.

Well, Mora rebounded from the draw for an easy win in January and landed a shot at Forrest, a big name and former welterweight champ with two wins against a prime Shane Mosley. Forrest had captured a vacant 154-pound belt last summer against Carlos Baldomir in an HBO mismatch and then routed Michele Piccirillo in December in a Showtime mismatch. Mora looked like just another Showtime mismatch for Forrest, the overwhelming favorite.

But Mora now can have the last laugh on his detractors, including a certain ESPN.com writer who is enjoying a big bowl of crow today. Got to hand it the 27-year-old, who is no longer merely "The Contender." Today, he owns a major world title, the first "Contender" fighter to win one. Mora has every right to tell all of us that he told us so after authoring what is, so far, the upset of the year.

While other "Contender" fighters crashed and burned in big fights, such as Peter Manfredo and Alfonso Gomez, Mora salvaged the series' reputation with his performance against Forrest.

Although Mora didn't have much time to warm up because the co-featured fight ended with a first-round knockout, he finally got rolling after giving away the first few rounds. Once Mora became comfortable, he put round after round in the bank. He frustrated Forrest with what Forrest called Mora's "herky-jerky" style. Meanwhile, Forrest, 37, faded badly down the stretch and was exhausted in the late rounds. Where he goes from here is anyone's guess. Mora, meanwhile, could find himself in a great position. With Floyd Mayweather Jr. announcing his retirement and calling off a Sept. 20 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya, the Golden Boy needs a new opponent. Maybe he'd like to challenge Mora for his old belt? That would be a big fight between Los Angeles natives. Don't bet against it happening. It makes so much sense (not to mention dollars).

Welterweight
Paul Williams TKO1 Carlos Quintana
Wins a welterweight title
Records: Williams, 34-1, 25 KOs; Quintana, 25-2, 19 KOs
Rafael's remark: In February, Williams went into his first title defense as a heavy favorite against Quintana and was viewed by many as a potential star just beginning a long championship reign. Then Quintana dominated a lethargic Williams and took the title in a major upset. Despite being outclassed, Williams, 26, exercised his rematch clause, which many questioned because of his problems making 147 pounds. It turned out to be the right move as Williams mowed down Quintana in stunning fashion to recapture his belt. Williams needed just 2:15 to blow out Puerto Rico's Quintana, who was basically finished by the first big shot that landed. Williams caught him with hard blows from both hands and Quintana went down. He was wobbly when he rose and Williams went right to him, guns blazing again. Quintana, 31, had no prayer and he went down again after taking another flurry of shots, forcing referee Ed Claudio to stop it without a count. Williams showed more passion and energy than he showed in the first fight, blowing Quintana away with even more authority than Miguel Cotto did in Quintana's only other defeat, a fifth-round TKO in December 2006. If Williams can continue to make weight -- no small feat -- he's a serious player in boxing's most loaded weight division.
Junior middleweight
Sergio Martinez TKO7 Archak Ter-Meliksetian
Records: Martinez, 43-1-1, 23 KOs; Ter-Meliksetian, 16-7, 13 KOs
Rafael's remark: Argentina-born, Spain-based Martinez, 33, has been staying busy but against weak competition, as he and promoter Lou DiBella protect his mandatory status. With Sergio Mora defeating Vernon Forrest to win a title in the main event, Martinez is Mora's mandatory challenger in a bout that is supposed to take place within 90 days (but you can never hold the WBC to a deadline). Martinez dropped Ter-Meliksetian, 29, of Armenia and now living in New Jersey, in the sixth round and then dropped him again in the seventh before it was called off. Martinez is a formidable contender. His only loss came via seventh-round TKO to Antonio Margarito in 2000. Ter-Meliksetian, a former prospect, probably should consider a day job after losing for the third time in a row and for the sixth time in his last seven.
Featherweight
Clarence "Bones" Adams No Contest 4 Jesus Salvador Perez
Records: Adams, 43-6-4, 19 KOs; Perez, 25-20-3, 14 KOs
Rafael's remark: Adams, 33, was a former junior featherweight titleholder best known for two decision losses in excellent action fights with Paulie Ayala in 2001 and 2002. Since then Adams has sort of faded away, including a three-year hiatus from 2003 to 2006. He won the first two bouts of his comeback and then took another year off before fighting to a headbutt-induced no contest with Perez. They clashed heads in the fourth round and Perez, whose right eye was cut, could not continue.

Saturday at Atlantic City, N.J.
Middleweight
Kelly Pavlik TKO3 Gary Lockett
Retains world middleweight title
Records: Pavlik, 34-0, 30 KOs; Lockett, 30-2, 21 KOs
Rafael's remark: There are times when boxing offers shocking outcomes, such as Buster Douglas' legendary knockout of Mike Tyson. And then there are times when a fight goes 100 percent the way it is expected to go. That's the category Pavlik-Lockett falls into. Pavlik, the Youngstown, Ohio, hero making his first defense after taking care of Jermain Taylor for a second time in their February nontitle rematch, abused the overmatched and unqualified Lockett for two-plus rounds until compassionate trainer Enzo Calzaghe threw in the towel. Lockett, a manufactured mandatory challenger courtesy of the ridiculous WBO, had no chance and it was obvious from the opening bell. Under a hail of Pavlik power, Lockett was bleeding from his nose, cut on his eye and took two knees in the second round before being knocked to a knee in the third round. He bravely got up (no, he shouldn't have been in the fight, but don't knock his fighting heart) and was willing to go on before the towel came in. Lockett, a nice guy who deserved better than to be embarrassed like he was, can now head back to Wales never to be heard from again. Pavlik, meanwhile, got the soft touch his handlers wanted him to get before moving on, we hope, to another serious confrontation. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is talking with British promoter Frank Warren about a match with super middleweight and light heavyweight champ Joe Calzaghe on Oct. 18. That would be huge fight, but if it does not come to fruition, Arum said Pavlik will be back in September and then again in December, opponents to be determined, although German titleholder Arthur Abraham is on the short list for December if he survives his June 21 rematch with Edison Miranda. Despite the unworthiness of Lockett as a challenger, Pavlik did look terrific. He was strong, seemed to make weight without too many problems and displayed a fantastic jab. With Floyd Mayweather announcing his retirement, Oscar De La Hoya a fight or two from retirement and the American heavyweight star non-existent, Pavlik is the centerpiece of American boxing.

Junior featherweight
Juan Manuel Lopez TKO1 Daniel Ponce De Leon
Wins a junior featherweight title
Records: Lopez, 22-0, 20 KOs; Ponce De Leon, 34-2, 30 KOs
Rafael's remark: Who saw this coming? Lopez went from hot prospect and rising contender to bona fide real deal with this electrifying and unexpected destruction of Ponce De Leon. It was not so much that the 24-year-old 2004 Puerto Rican Olympian defeated Mexico's hard-hitting Ponce De Leon, 27, but the manner in which he did it that was so surprising. Lopez recorded two knockdowns and needed just 2:25 to get rid of Ponce De Leon, who was making his seventh title defense. Lopez, on the radar screen of prospect watchers for years, delivered on the potential that so many believed he had. He looks like the total package. He has speed, power, boxing ability and one of the most devastating right hooks in the sport. Even though the fight was short, he also displayed a solid chin by withstanding some hard shots from Ponce De Leon, one of boxing's best punchers. Lopez's win also gives Top Rank another win over a fighter from rival Golden Boy, if you're keeping score at home. Lopez has a good chance to become a major star because of the love he'll get at home in Puerto Rico. Top Rank knows how to develop Puerto Rican fighters, too. Just look at the job it's done with Miguel Cotto. Top Rank will keep Lopez fighting at home and also build him on the East Coast in New York and Atlantic City. His first title defense could come on Aug. 30 in Puerto Rico on the pay-per-view undercard of junior flyweight champion Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon's rematch with Hugo Cazares. Ponce De Leon, meanwhile, had never been hurt in a fight or down in his career, so this has to be a total shock.
Junior lightweight
Kevin Mitchell TKO5 Walter Estrada
Records: Mitchell, 27-0, 20 KOs; Estrada, 34-6, 23 KOs
Rafael's remark: The 23-year-old Mitchell has received plenty of hype in England as one of the nation's top prospects, and promoter Frank Warren has high hopes for him, but based on his disappointing performance against Estrada, there is much work to be done. Mitchell was making his American debut, so maybe the travel and unfamiliar territory distracted him. Of course, maybe it was all the punches that Colombia's Estrada, 33, was landing. He had Mitchell in trouble in the second round and swelled his right eye. Mitchell finally regrouped and knocked Estrada down at the end of the fifth with a right to the body. Even though the round ended and Estrada was on his feet, referee Lindsey Page stopped the fight, which looked like a terribly quick hook. The win did move Mitchell into position for a possible fight with Alex Arthur, a junior lightweight beltholder from Scotland who is also in Warren's stable.

Saturday at Maracay, Venezuela
Junior featherweight
Celestino Caballero TKO12 Lorenzo Parra
Retains a junior featherweight title
Records: Caballero, 29-2, 20 KOs; Parra, 28-2, 18 KOs
Rafael's remark: Caballero, 31, of Panama, made his fourth defense in Parra's home country as part of the WBA's annual "KO Drugs" charity festival. Parra, 29, who is 5-foot-4, gave up seven inches to Caballero, who is gigantic for a 122-pounder. The fight ended when referee Luis Pabon stopped it on advice of the ringside doctor, who suspected that Parra, a former flyweight titleholder, had a broken jaw. With the win, Caballero is poised for a November unification bout with Canada's Steve Molitor, although that could fall through because of Molitor's recent split with promoter Orion Sports and his uncertain promotional status.

Friday at Montreal
Junior welterweight
Herman Ngoudjo W12 Souleymane M'Baye
Title eliminator
Scores: 117-111, 116-112, 115-113
Records: Ngoudjo, 17-2, 9 KOs; M'Baye, 36-3-1, 21 KOs
Rafael's remark: Despite a badly swollen left eye that began to balloon early in the fight, Canada's Ngoudjo, 28, scored a competitive victory against France's M'Baye, a former titleholder, in the "Friday Night Fights" main event. Ngoudjo, who had to have his eye examined by the ringside doctor during the fight, was coming off a razor-close loss to titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in January. He earned another shot at Malignaggi's belt with the victory in the official eliminator. However, don't expect that rematch to materialize right away, if at all. Malignaggi is supposed to face Ricky Hatton in the fall, which means Ngoudjo might have to wait for that winner or fight for a vacant title if Malignaggi is stripped for fighting Hatton, the real 140-pound champ. M'Baye, 33, can make a legitimate argument that he deserved the decision in the close fight. He did outstanding inside work during the middle rounds, but the judges apparently didn't see it that way. M'Baye lost for the second time in three fights, including his upset title loss to Gavin Rees last July.

Super middleweight
Sebastien Demers W8 Sam Hill
Scores: 80-72 (twice), 80-71
Records: Demers, 25-1, 9 KOs; Hill, 17-8-1, 10 KOs
Rafael's remark: Montreal's Demers, 28, shut out Hill, who hadn't fought since a loss in November 2006. Demers used Hill, 37, for batting practice, winning every second of the fight while displaying a potent body attack. Demers won his fifth fight in a row since he was smoked in three rounds challenging middleweight beltholder Arthur Abraham in Germany in May 2007.

Friday at Reading, Pa.
Middleweight
Marco Antonio Rubio TKO5 Alfredo Cuevas
Records: Rubio, 42-4-1, 37 KOs; Cuevas, 26-10-1, 17 KOs
Rafael's remark: Rubio went into the Telefutura main event knowing that a win might secure a shot with middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, who won his fight the following night. Rubio, 27, took care of business in dominant fashion as he laid a beating on Cuevas, 38, whose better days are long past. The fight was stopped at the end of the fifth as Cuevas lost for the third time in four fights with each defeat coming via stoppage. After the bout, Cuevas announced his retirement, which isn't a bad idea at all. Rubio, of Mexico, has won eight in a row since losing two straight in 2006. It remains to be seen if Rubio will land a shot at Pavlik. Promoter Bob Arum has a deal in place with Rubio, but said he isn't bound by it. The Pavlik team is looking at other options, but Rubio could be the fallback plan for a possible September bout.

Lightweight
Urbano Antillon TKO6 Jose Leonard Cruz
Records: Antillon, 23-0, 16 KOs; Cruz, 12-3-2, 8 KOs
Rafael's remark: Antillon got the victory, but not without an upset Cruz and his team complaining about the stoppage. Cruz, 32, dropped Antillon, 25, to a knee with a clean right hand at the end of the second round, but Antillon controlled most of the fight. In the sixth round, Antillon was unloading shots and Cruz's left eye, which had been battered during the fight, was swollen almost shut. Cruz, however, was still punching back and didn't seem hurt when the fight was stopped between rounds because of the severe swelling. It did not sit well with Cruz or his handlers, who carried on in the ring after the fight ended.
Junior lightweight
Argenis Mendez W8 Jose Navarette
Records: Mendez, 12-0, 8 KOs; Navarette, 12-16-2, 5 KOs
Rafael's remark: Mendez, a former Dominican Olympian who turned 22 last week, is one of Top Rank's rising prospects, but he struggled to a split decision victory against an experienced journeyman. An injured hand may have been a reason for Mendez's tough night, one in which he surely learned a lesson or two -- like every prospect needs to do.

Wednesday at Brooklyn, N.Y.
Light heavyweight
Yusaf Mack W10 Daniel Judah
Scores: 97-92 (three times)
Records: Mack, 25-2-2, 15 KOs; Judah, 20-3-3, 10 KOs
Rafael's remark: Mack, 28, scored an important victory in the "Wednesday Night Fights" main event after being knocked out in his two other notable fights. In 2006, future titleholder Alejandro Berrio embarrassed him by kissing him on the forehead and then drilling him. In 2007, he was stopped by top contender Librado Andrade. But since that loss, Mack has now won two in a row, including the win against Judah, one of former undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah's brothers. Mack dropped Judah in the second round and simply outworked, outpunched and outhustled Judah to win the clear decision. After the knockdown, Judah, 30, looked like he just went into a shell, wanting more to survive than make a serious attempt to win.

Junior middleweight
Gabriel Rosado W8 James Moore
Scores: 78-73, 77-74, 76-74
Records: Rosado, 10-2, 6 KOs; Moore, 15-1, 10 KOs
Rafael's remark: Congratulations to Rosado, 22, for pulling the upset against Moore, a New York-based Irishman looking to follow in the footsteps of money-making ticket seller John Duddy. Rosado upset the party, however, hurting Moore, 30, in the fourth round and knocking him down and nearly out in the fifth round.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.