Kevin Lele Sadjo TKO-6 Jack Cullen
This was for the vacant European super middleweight title, with Sadjo coming in short notice to face Cullen, a popular fighter who has always provided good entertainment on Matchroom shows he’s been on.
He did so again here, but did not get the result he wanted, with Sadjo (17-0, 15 KO) just pouring on a bit too much pressure and catching Cullen (20-3-1, 9 KO) with a wicked body shot in round six to end things.
It’s a tough loss for “Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver,” who deserves his popularity and the fan adoration he’s picked up, but the loss was clean and clear, and Cullen was getting caught with heavy right hands to the head repeatedly, which opened up the body. All in all, Cullen just did not have the best approach in this fight, though he certainly had his own success in the first five rounds.
Now 28, Cullen will surely come again at European level, likely at 168 still but maybe up to 175, though that would require packing on some bulk, which might be tricky with his frame; he’s a very tall 168, but he’s lanky as hell, and fought most of his career at 160 before moving up in 2020.
The 31-year-old Sadjo heads home to France with the biggest win of his career, and to note, once his adrenaline wore off a bit he was much more “respectful” toward Cullen in the corner and after the fight. He’d really riled up the fans by celebrating hard, and he definitely kept getting boos, but he probably didn’t really deserve that.
Zelfa Barrett UD-12 Bruno Tarimo
The judges thought more of Tarimo’s high energy output than I did, scoring it 116-111, 117-110, and 117-110 for Barrett, a clear win for sure, but I really struggled to even find a round to give Tarimo, because for as hard as he worked, nothing he was doing was actually effective to my eye. Of course I could be wrong, it has happened before, and at any rate I join them in respecting and admiring the work Tarimo put in here. He just was out of his depth.
Barrett (27-1, 16 KO) will have his sights set on the IBF junior lightweight title now, as this was an eliminator for the belt recently won by Kenichi Ogawa. The 28-year-old “Brown Flash” would be a clear if not overwhelming underdog against the Japanese veteran.
Tarimo (26-3-2, 5 KO), a Tanzanian who now lives in Australia, is tiny at 130 lbs and they kept talking about how he could do this or that in lower weight classes, but he’s been fighting at 130 since 2017, both in Tanzania and Australia, so I get the sense this was more promotional spin to sort of excuse a matchup that wasn’t very good that probably shouldn’t have been an eliminator in the first place. Tarimo did drop down to bantamweight for a fight in 2018 and didn’t do so hot, and has been at 130 for his last six fights now, and had been before that.
Barrett didn’t provide a ton of highlight reel material here, either, a sort of workmanlike performance, but a good one that got the job done. His single shots were more impactful than all the hard work Tarimo was putting in, and I want to stress that Tarimo really is a very fun fighter to watch, or would be in a more appropriately matched contest, because this started to drag as it went on and it was clear Tarimo couldn’t really do anything with Barrett, and that Barrett was not going to press on the gas and take any big risks, either.
Lerrone Richards SD-12 Carlos Gongora
Usually two cards of 115-113 for the home fighter and one of 116-112 for the away fighter would indicate the away fighter got screwed but not this time. The judges who got this right got it right, and the card for Gongora is pretty wild, in all honesty.
Bad Left Hook also had this 115-113 for Richards (16-0, 3 KO), who now holds the IBO title, if that means something to you, and more importantly has put himself into the mix at 168 lbs, which is not a deep division right now.
While 115-113 is a close score, it doesn’t tell you what watching this was like. A couple of the five rounds I gave Gongora could easily have gone to Richards; I could have scored this 117-111 Richards and felt fine with that, as he bossed the tempo and range and pace of the fight almost all night, with Gongora (20-1, 15 KO) never getting into a meaningful rhythm. Probably the best round Gongora had was the ninth, where it seemed clear Richards was purposely laying off the gas a bit. Gongora took three of the last four rounds on my card to tighten it up, but Richards had wiggle room by then, too.
It wasn’t a blistering performance, wasn’t star-making, wasn’t incredible. Richards is never going to excite the general public, but he is a good, sturdy boxer, kept Gongora at bay and frustrated, and did his job. He’s got good feet, a sharp jab, and while he’s not a puncher, he doesn’t run and hide, either.
It’s a good win for Richards, obviously, and a setback for the 32-year-old Gongora, who probably peaked the night he came back from way behind and stopped Ali Akhmedov in Florida, but he’s still a good fighter. He just got out-boxed here, plain and simple.
Undercard results and highlights
- Alen Babic KO-6 David Spilmont: This was short notice for both, with Babic taking a fight on two weeks’ notice just to get one in, and Spilmont coming in as a replacement after two intended opponents fell through. Really fun fight, Babic (10-0, 10 KO) ultimately getting the job done, but hardly painlessly. He got hurt bad at the end of the second round, and Spilmont (11-8-1, 7 KO) gave this a real go as soon as he stopped trying to box Babic, which will work when the boxers are better than Spilmont or the other guys Babic has fought, but won’t when they’re only as good as Spilmont and the other guys Babic has fought. To be clear here, nobody rational considers Babic any significant threat to the top heavyweights. People enjoy him because he’s fun to watch; we get so few fighters who are truly, consistently fun to watch, and Babic always delivers what is advertised, full action.
- David Nyika RTD-1 Anthony Carpin: A total mismatch, but not expected. Nyika (2-0, 2 KO) won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics for New Zealand, and he’s looking sharp as a pro early, battering Carpin (5-7-2, 2 KO) in the opening round, and the fight was stopped after the first round with Carpin seeming to have an elbow injury or something, but it wasn’t a foul that caused it, so it’s a TKO/RTD. Carpin showing up at all saved a fight for Nyika, as the Frenchman came in short notice for what wound up being his third straight loss, and he’s lost to much worse talents than the 26-year-old Nyika, who has real hope as a cruiserweight prospect.