Cleverly vs Kovalev & Geale vs Barker: One night in Atlantic City

Rich Schultz

This past Saturday, August 17th at Revel Resort, Atlantic City, New Jersey, a split site HBO broadcast was done featuring Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs) vs Sergey Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs) and Daniel Geale (29-1, 15 KOs) vs Darren Barker (25-1, 16 KOs) in the respective main events. I was there to witness the magic (which may only explain some of the things that happened).

It was the first night HBO Boxing used Revel Atlantic City as a venue and as I'd never been there before either, I decided I'd go early. To my pleasant surprise (although I should have anticipated this) I was able to see Sergey Kovalev demolish Nathan Cleverly on the Jumbotrons while also seeing (but mostly listening to) Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, and Roy Jones Jr call the fight live. HBO subscribers at home would have to wait several hours to see the fight on TV, so, "Ha-haw!" (Nelson voice)

But what viewers couldn't see on HBO was what Jim Lampley said after they finished recording, "I'll give Cleverly credit for 1 thing. He asked for that." For a more detailed look at Cleverly-Kovalev check out Scott Christ's post-fight recap and story on "The Inevitable Fall of Nathan Cleverly." Yet, despite that inevitability, Scott predicted Cleverly would win, while I had Kovalev, so, again, "Ha-haw!"

Alright, that's enough Nelson jokes for 1 day, I promise, even though it wouldn't surprise me if Cleverly saw a Simpsons re-run somewhere between rounds 3 and 4... Personally I suspected the jig was up when I watched yet another "unmissable" BoxNation pre-fight documentary, this one titled "BoxNation meets Nathan Cleverly." It was a much more humble title than the previous "Next Big Thing" (which focused on David Price before the first Tony Thompson fight) but was promoted the same.

However, that's not why I figured Cleverly was in trouble. I'm not that superstitious. You see, I actually watched the documentary. In said documentary Vince Cleverly (Nathan's father and trainer) said Ovill McKenzie (Nathan's chief sparring partner) is "very similar" to Sergey Kovalev. Not only was that, well, wrong, but it turned out that McKenzie was simply not remotely on the same level to begin with.  McKenzie was knocked out by the ghost of Enzo Maccarinelli earlier that night in the 11th round.

But enough about the action from Cardiff, Wales, let's move on to the action in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The televised bouts that HBO showed live, Kiko Martinez TKO6 Jhonatan Romero and Darren Barker SD12 Daniel Geale, have already been covered by Scott, so I really don't have much else to say about them. I will however cover the scoring of the fights and recap my post-fight interviews. But we'll get to that later. Let's start with the early results first.

1. Jonathan Maicelo KO10 Jose Alejandro Rodriguez (0:22)

In a bout that was originally scheduled for 8 rounds Maicelo bounced back nicely from his SportsCenter Top 10 knockout defeat to Rustam Nugaev and took out the respectable Rodriguez in the 10th and final round. I believe it was a right hand that connected around Rodriguez's left ear which took him to a knee for a (full?) 10 count. Maicelo dominated the fight from start to finish (which is a lot better than what unbeaten prospect Jeffrey Fontanez could do against Rodriguez 2 months earlier). Maicelo did telegraph his punches, load up too much, and throw himself off balance, but the plodding and tentative Rodriguez never really took advantage of it. Maicelo's speed and reflexes were on another level. Here's what he had to say when I interviewed him afterward:

Maicelo thinks listening to his corner was the difference in this fight, which he says he didn't do against Nugaev. He also fought through the pain of injuring his right hand in round 3 and expects to be back in the ring in his native Peru on national TV perhaps as soon as October 12th.

2. Thomas Dulorme TKO8 Francisco Figueroa (0:47)

In a bout that was later showed on HBO Latino via tape delay, Dulorme more or less dominated "Gato" Figueroa for 8 rounds before the referee showed mercy. Figueroa was down twice officially in rounds 3 and 5. Overall Dulorme was too strong for Figueroa and pretty much bullied him around the ring. Dulorme particularly punished Figueroa to the body, although many were sold as low blows. Dulorme later told me those complaints were bogus:

He also said "Abregu just had a good night," the man that gave him his only career defeat to date. However, since he's now campaigning at 140 lbs, a rematch with WBC Silver welterweight champion Luis Carlos Abregu was not on his mind at this time. He did say Abregu could definitely "get it" at some point down the line though.

But let's move back to round 5 of Dulorme-Figueroa. Although Figueroa was clearly and officially knocked down, Dulorme lost a point for low blows. Theoretically this should have resulted in a 9-8 round. But for whatever reason the official scorecards indicate the judges had it 9-9. That scoring made no sense. It implies all 3 judges thought the knockdown was bogus and completely ignored the referee. Yet that rarely happens even when it's true. So what the hell possessed them to do it this time? And why the hell did judge Anthony Perez score the next round 10-8 Dulorme despite no knockdown? You watch the fight and tell me. Your guesses are as good as mine.

3. Yordenys Ugas UD10 John Williams (98-91, 98-91, 99-90)

Ugas, coming off a 1st round stoppage of usually durable Adan Hernandez, was dominant against Williams but taken the full 10 round distance. If you're wondering why I spelled Ugas' first name Yordenys instead of Yordenis, it's because I'm going by the official bout sheet instead of BoxRec. Also listed on said sheet is the title on the line in this fight, the WBC Latin Junior Interim Championship. The name sounds a bit hard to believe but I could verify some sort of WBC title in his locker room when I went back to interview other fighters (would have got him too if the next bout didn't start immediately afterward).

In any event Ugas-Williams was fairly uneventful. Ugas toyed with Williams as he walked him down and Williams was usually in survival mode, offering little return fire besides a counter jab from time to time. Then with seconds to go in the bout Williams decided to go to war, like it mattered... I couldn't find a round to give to Williams but judge John Stewart gave him the 8th and judge Lynne Carter gave him the 9th. Round 10 was 9-9 across the board as Ugas lost a point for low blows.

4. Joel Brunker UD8 Mike Oliver (78-74, 78-74, 78-74)

In a bout televised by MainEvent (Australia) and Sky Sports (UK) unbeaten 2004 Olympian "Aussie" Joel Brunker cleaned up the mess left by countryman Billy Dib against Oliver, although over 2 fewer rounds despite the bout originally being scheduled for 10. To complicate matters at least 1 judge gave Oliver rounds 7 and 8 (and all of them gave him round 2). Things became tougher for Brunker after getting cut by a headbutt in the 5th round, which seemed to impair his vision. Rounds 6-8 were debatable. Brunker kept up his high work rate but the cleanest punches came from Oliver.

However, prior to the cut, this was clearly a Brunker fight. He was simply too strong for Oliver and mauled him to death. So where does Bunker, rated as high as #4 by the WBO, go from here? He wasn't too sure when I asked him:

He also wasn't happy with his performance but thought it was a nice step up and a good learning experience for himself. In any event he's now 27-0 and ready for his shot at the major leagues whenever the opportunity arises.

5. Kiko Martinez TKO6 Jhonatan Romero (2:40)

In a very surprising upset previously rising star Romero was dethroned by the aging Martinez (who was expected to be damaged goods following his tough loss to Carl Frampton). Martinez and Romero are supposedly born in the same year, 1986, also the year in which I was born, but Martinez easily looks a lot older. Maybe it's just Kiko's premature baldness, but, it is what it is.

Anyways, Kiko beat the hell out of Romero in the 1st round and won it 10-8 on 1 of the judge's scorecards without a knockdown. I agreed with that card, as did HBO's unofficial judge Steve Weisfeld. Martinez landed 40 of 88 power shots according to CompuBox and subsequently temporarily punched himself out. Martinez was unable to fully recover until the 4th when he had Romero in trouble again, aided by an accidental headbutt that cut Romero above the left eye, and from that point onward remained in control throughout. Yet, somehow, someway, the same judge (Robin Taylor) who scored the first round 10-8 for Martinez managed to score the 5th round 10-9 for Romero. Ultimately she had the fight even (47-47) at the time of the stoppage. Mind boggling. I didn't ask Romero if he thought the fight was that close, but this is what I did ask him:

He was severely depressed and didn't have much to say. Kiko on the other hand was having the time of his life, beginning with a phone conversation with middleweight kingpin and stable mate Sergio Martinez:

Kiko felt very good and was motivated to provide a better life for his family. He said his preparations were much better than in the past and he ate a lot healthier. He was extremely focused because if he lost he was going to retire, thus he fought like it was the last fight of his life. But as he's now the IBF super bantamweight champion, expect to see him in the ring again soon. If he has it his way, it will be against Nonito Donaire.

6. Darren Barker SD12 Daniel Geale (113-114, 116-111, 114-113)

In a fight filled with swing rounds the judges could only agree on rounds 2 and 6 for Geale and rounds 3, 7, 10, and 11 for Barker. In other words, half of the fight could have gone either way. I also felt that way watching it live. But I damn sure didn't agree on the swing rounds. As previously reported Barker was very fortunate to be given the last round on judge Carlos Ortiz Jr's scorecard, which consequently awarded him the fight. It's not that I disagreed with Barker winning; it's just that he damn sure didn't win round 12. The 12th was Geale's best round apart from the 6th. Upon 2nd review (ie I later watched the fight again at home) I thought rounds 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, and 9 were on the table as being debatable. If you give all of those rounds to Geale, plus the deserved 2nd and 12th, Geale wins the fight 116-111. However, if you swing them to Barker, plus the deserved 3rd, 7th, 10th, and 11th rounds, Barker wins the fight 117-110. So ultimately all of the official final scores fall into the acceptable spectrum even though on a round by round basis Ortiz failed to justify Barker as the winner.

That being said, there were 2 rounds I gave to Barker that Ortiz did not: 2 and 8. So I'm not seeing any bias on his part here. At the end of the day Ortiz and I had the same score, 114-113 for Barker. So should I be outraged? Meh, Geale wasn't:

Geale knew the fight was close, thought Darren was tricky, and expected him to remain strong in the later rounds. He believes there's a return clause in his contract and hopes to get the rematch, even if it's in the UK. Geale said, "I know I can beat Darren. I know I'm better than Darren. But, you know, I just gotta get that chance to do it again." Meanwhile, Darren was enjoying one of the best nights of his life:

On the subject of the near fight-ending body shot that put him down for 9 seconds in round 6, Barker said, "It was...pain...couldn't breathe...then I seen my brother and I seen my daughter, and someone picked me up, I'm tellin' ya. I don't know if it was both of ‘em or, I don't know what happened. A really weird moment and, I don't know..." What he does know is that he's the new IBF middleweight champion of the world.

I also caught up with Darren's promoter Eddie Hearn (who later generously offered me free beer, although I turned him down because I'm in training) and stuck around for the post-fight press conference. Nothing really came out of the post-fight presser information wise that I wanted to know and didn't already. I was hoping to be given official attendance numbers for the event, which my eyes told me couldn't have been very good, but c'est la vie. Hearn, on the other hand, did give me some good info. He also had the fight 114-113 for Barker and is eyeing a fight with Felix Sturm in the UK (which he thinks could draw 20k+ fans).

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Ryan Bivins is a staff writer for BadLeftHook. You can contact him on twitter (@sweetboxing) or through email (rgbivins@gmail.com).

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