After witnessing 48 combined rounds and change on Saturday night from ringside, I'll probably remember less than 10% of them by this time next year. Only 5 rounds truly stood out and none of them involved the main event, which has to go down as a candidate for "worst fight of the year." In said "contest" Guillermo Rigondeaux shutout Joseph Agbeko over 12 uneventful rounds. He's ready for bigger fights with Nonito Donaire (a rematch) and Vasyl Lomachenko (which pits 2-time Olympic Gold Medalists against each other), but at catchweights. When interviewed after the fight he clearly said that he's not going up to the featherweight limit for those matches:
It seems like Rigondeaux feels he's in the driver's seat and can dictate the terms of super fights. As far as he's concerned his bout with Agbeko was a complete success. Yet only a few hundred people remained in attendance to see that "fight" through. Even press row could hardly pay attention, not to drop any names...
But consider which fight preceded it. In the co-main event James Kirkland walked through fire to out slug Glen Tapia in a dog fight, involving 3 of the 5 most eventful rounds of the night. Tapia, the local fighter, clearly was responsible for the majority of the night's ticket sales. His fans vociferously cheered whenever he had success and practically turned mute when he was getting his ass handed to him. And when the fight finally ended, after Kirkland landed his final devastating blow, they violently booed the visiting fighter and at least one guy dropped the "n word" a few dozen times.
Such is boxing.
In the newest candidate for "fight of the year" Tapia beat the hell out of Kirkland for the first 2 minutes of the first round and continued to dominate for another 30 seconds before Kirkland finally mounted a substantial comeback. Kirkland kept the momentum with him throughout the rest of the fight, despite getting buzzed multiple times along the way until the inevitable conclusion. And that conclusion may have come 2 rounds too late.
Through 3 rounds Kirland-Tapia was without a doubt the best fight of the year. But in round 4 Tapia was practically a dead man that could barely keep his hands up, much less throw punches back. Tapia's heart and determination saw him to the end of round 4 which should have been enough of a moral victory for him. It was then time for his corner to pull him out.
Yet they did not.
Inexplicably Tapia was sent out for a 5th round, where he dug deep and briefly came back before badly fading again. Based on his limited success in the 5th it was understandable to send him out for a 6th, but he was a dead man from the moment the final round began. Kirkland applied pressure and never stopped punching. Referee Steve Smoger stopped the bout 38 seconds into the round but was unable to protect Tapia from a final left hook after the call was made. That left hook, out of the southpaw stance, had Tapia out on his feet and would have been the first and final knockdown in the fight if it wasn't already over.
When all was said and done Kirkland landed over 300 punches and the vast majority of them were power shots. He threw well over 100 punches every 3 minutes. It was the real life version of a Rocky movie and one of the most amazing things I've ever seen live.
The remaining memorable rounds of the evening were involved in undercards Matt Korobov-Derek Edwards (round 1) and Toka Kahn Clary-Ramsey Luna (round 4). Korobov dominated Edwards in the first round en route to winning it 10-8 without a knockdown, then, suddenly, he was practically rendered unconscious by a counter right hook. If Edwards wasn't already beaten to hell I'm fairly positive he would have finished Korobov off that round. All 3 judges scored the round differently, 10-9 for each fighter and 10-10. I agreed with the even score. Unfortunately that was the last quality round of the fight as Korobov got a lot more cautious and Edwards simply didn't have much to offer. The agony lasted until round 9 when Korobov finally finished Edwards off.
In a much better fight overall Luna nearly upset Kahn in round 4 after clearly losing the first 3. Kahn was dropped twice, didn't hold, and barely survived the round. He was still hurt in round 5 but let his hands go and edged it out on all of the official scorecards. Round 6 was just business as usual again and the fight ended with Kahn winning by 2 points on all cards.
Now to recap the remainder of the card, chronologically:
1. Egor Mekhontsev (177.2) TKO3 Peter "PJ" Cajagas (179.8) [2:35]
In a dominant pro debut Mekhontsev had his designated victim gun shy from the opening round and put him down 3 times from body shots in the third. Upon the third knockdown the referee waved it off. It was originally announced as a 35 second stoppage but was later changed to 2:35 after members of the media bugged the commission about it.
In any event 2012 light heavyweight Olympic Gold Medalist Mekhontsev advanced to 1-0. When I covered Egor in the Olympics I recall his last name being spelled Mekhontcev. But I suppose it doesn't actually matter since it's all a translation from Мехонцев anyways...
2. Julian Rodriguez (140.6) UD4 Ryan Picou (140) [40-36, 40-36, 40-36]
Probably looking to repeat the performance in his pro debut, "Hammer Hands" Rodriguez turned the heat up immediately on Picou and punched himself out a little when Picou proved durable. Picou still lost every round but he at least put up a good fight for half of the bout. In round 2 especially he showed a lot of swag and was able to potshot Rodriguez.
However, the theatrics ended midway through round 3 when Rodriguez stunned Picou with a right cross and assaulted his body, something he had worked throughout the fight. By round 4 Picou was bent over and clinching to survive. Junior welterweight prospect Rodriguez won by a clear shutout and improved to 2-0.
3. Jesse Hart (168.2) TKO1 Tyrell Hendrix (168.4) [1:20]
Jesse Hart once again was too fast, too sharp, and just too good for his 11th consecutive opponent. Hendrix stumbled into the ropes after a counter right hand and was never able to recover. Hart unloaded until Steve Smoger was forced to step in. I told the people next to me "gone in 60 seconds" before the fight began. Hendrix lasted an extra 20. Super middleweight prospect "Hard Work" Hart got his 10th knockout. Who's next?
4. Toka Kahn Clary (130.2) UD6 Ramsey Luna (131.2) [57-55, 57-55, 57-55]
In probably the most competitive bout on the card "T-Nice" got off to a fast start showing his superior footwork and hand speed while Luna shelled up and tried to get close. Despite being out classed Luna was undeterred as Kahn lacked the power (or perhaps because he didn't turn his punches over) to stop him in his tracks. Kahn did stagger Luna with a right hook early in round 3 but began to get caught with lead right hands later as he pulled straight back. Luna's success with straight rights continued into the next round and was responsible for both of Kahn's visits to the canvas. But Kahn survived and pulled out a hard fought decision victory, despite some disapproval from the crowd. BLH caught up with the victor afterward:
T-Nice is now 9-0.
5. Matt Korobov (162.8) TKO9 Derek Edwards (161.8) [0:28]
Edwards was dropped in round 2, 7, and 9 and judge Alan Rubenstein scored round 8 for Korobov 10-8 despite no knockdown. Edwards was systematically broken down in dull fashion after an exhilarating opener (described previously). The fight was basically the reverse of Julio Cesar Chavez-Sergio Martinez, except Edwards didn't weigh 200 lbs so when he got bombed he actually fell down. In any event fringe middleweight contender Korobov continued his ever-lateral movement and "progressed" to 22-0.
6. Matthew Macklin (159) UD10 Lamar Russ (159) [96-94, 98-92, 97-93]
And alas we come to the opening bout of the HBO tripleheader. I probably should have mentioned something about it in my elaborate intro, but I didn't. The fight wasn't entertaining and both fighters made each other look bad. Russ had the advantage in technique while Macklin was the one that actually threw punches. Russ practically landed his 1-1-2 combinations at will but rarely threw them and Macklin constantly leaped to throw jabs, uppercuts, and hooks (in that order of preference) but Russ never made him pay for it. Yet the little Russ did do left Macklin plenty marked up after the fight. Check out his face in the post-fight interview where he calls out Felix Sturm:
Promoter Lou Dibella says they'll be happy to go to Germany and "beat Sturm again" if necessary. Yet-to-taste-a-world-title Macklin improved to 30-5 while Sturm became a 4-time world champion earlier that day.
7. James Kirkland (155.1) TKO6 Glen Tapia (156) [0:38]
As this was the true event of the evening I already covered the fight in depth. This is where I would like to give you a post-fight interview with Kirkland, but his promoter 50 Cent basically snubbed media for that. Fortunately the always colorful Ann Wolfe was happy to comment:
Kirkland advanced to 32-1.
8. Guillermo Rigondeaux (121) UD12 Joseph Agbeko (121.6) [120-108, 120-108, 120-108]
I already said all I want to say about this fight. Rigondeaux was impressive but he didn't need to move backwards the entire fight, especially after it was obvious midway through that Agbeko had nothing to offer. Rigondeaux is great at what he does, but he's short a complete set of tools to do his job with. Nonetheless he remains the super WBA / WBO / RING super bantamweight champion. I leave you with post-fight interviews with Agbeko:
And his (probably 1-time) trainer Roger Mayweather:
Also in attendance was Sergey Kovalev, who was there supporting Lamar Russ and Matt Korobov. BLH caught up with Sergey before the fights began. He's still pursuing Adonis Stevenson but said he'd welcome a fight with Andrzej Fonfara if things don't work out. Here's my prediction on that right now: Kovalev by early KO. But hey, Fonfara has proven me wrong in the past. Twice actually. So what the hell do I know...
This Dec. 7, 2013 card was primarily organized by Top Rank in association with DiBella Entertainment and SMS Promotions. Bouts were televised by HBO and streamed online by TopRank.TV. A photo gallery of the event, courtesy of Darryl Cobb Jr, is available atop this page. If you’re looking for photos of Yordenis Ugas (15-1, 7 KOs), Emmanuel Robles (9-0-1, 3 KOs), Tramaine Williams (8-0, 2 KOs), or Jiovany Fuentes (5-3, 4 KOs), then tough luck. Those fights were scrapped. The fights that did happen took place in the Ballroom above the main arena.