Eimantas Stanionis took a big step closer to a possible proper welterweight title fight, beating Radzhab Butaev by split decision in the main event of the Showtime portion of tonight’s Spence vs Ugas card in Texas.
Stanionis (14-0, 9 KO) took two cards on scores of 116-111 and 117-110, while the third went to Butaev (14-1, 11 KO) on a tally of 114-113. Bad Left Hook scored the fight 116-111 for Stanionis. Butaev lost a point in round 11 for pushing down on the head of Stanionis, meaning that the judge who scored it for Butaev had it seven rounds to five in his favor.
Butaev didn’t have a bad night, really, he was just beaten by a guy who had a better one. Lithuania’s Stanionis can now claim to be his country’s first-ever boxing world champion, as the win comes with the WBA “world” (aka “regular”) welterweight title, the lesser version of the one Yordenis Ugas will defend later against unified WBC/IBF titleholder Errol Spence Jr.
Stanionis’ main weapon was a sharp, strong jab, which he established early and made work for the majority of the night. Butaev did some nice work to the body in particular, and had some success in a ragged southpaw stance when he’d switch over, but the majority of the cleaner, clearer, harder shots came from Stanionis.
This win does not mean Stanionis is up next for the Spence-Ugas winner. There will be others in that mix — a possible rematch, particularly if Ugas scores the upset, plus WBO titlist Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, and Jaron “Boots” Ennis, who has an IBF eliminator coming — and all of them are bigger names. But he’s doing everything he can to get himself in that position, too, he just keeps winning and he won a good fight over a good opponent tonight.
Brandun Lee UD-10 Zachary Ochoa
If you’ve heard some of the hype about Lee, this probably wasn’t the fight to become convinced that hype is real. But he did win a wide and deserved decision here, taking cards of 98-92, 99-91, and 99-91. BLH had it 98-92 for Lee, as well.
Ochoa (21-3, 7 KO) was a veteran pain for Lee (25-0, 22 KO), which like last week with Ryan Garcia against Emmanuel Tagoe, isn’t the worst thing for a young fighter. Lee, a 22-year-old prospect at 140 lbs, knows now that there’s a good bit more to work on in the gym, a lot of areas he can improve. Notably, he can cut the ring off a lot better than he did here, as he followed Ochoa around for large chunks of the fight.
Ochoa did open up a bit more in the final two rounds, at which point the zip had come off Lee’s fastball. Lee may also, at some point, have to consider whether or not he’s gone as far as his current corner can develop him, and if it might be time to seek a higher-level, more established trainer.
But he went past round seven for the first time in his career, and just going 10 full can be valuable.