Junior welterweight contender Adrien Broner found himself in a tougher fight than many thought he would be in Saturday night. But he closed the show impressively as he knocked down Emanuel Taylor in the final seconds of the 12th round, leaving no doubt about his unanimous-decision victory at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Broner's hometown.
Broner (29-1, 22 KOs), fighting before an announced crowd of 8,115 in his first hometown fight in 26 months, found himself in an action-packed dogfight against Taylor (18-3, 12 KOs), who came out swinging and never really slowed down. But Broner, with quicker hands and heavier punches, got the job done, winning 116-111, 116-111 and 115-112 to set himself up for another major fight, possibly against slugger Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, who won in the co-feature.
"There's a lot of people who wouldn't come here to Cincinnati to fight me, and he put up a helluva fight," Broner said, standing next to Taylor in the ring after the fight. "It's guys like him who don't get a chance to fight guys like me to show their talent, so I thank him for taking this fight."
It was a marked change in attitude from the rancor between the two during the buildup, which featured plenty of trash talk, knockout promises and Broner grabbing Taylor around the throat during the photo opportunity at the final news conference.
Once the fight began, that was all forgotten, and Broner and Taylor put on a spirited, highly entertaining and clean fight fought at a high skill level.
"Everyone underestimated me, but I put up a great fight," Taylor said.
Through the first six rounds the fight appeared to be even, as both fighters had their moments. Taylor was extremely aggressive early on. He came charging out of his corner and tried to emulate the style Marcos Maidana used against Broner in his upset win in December, in which he knocked Broner down twice, took his welterweight belt by decision and sent Broner down in weight to junior welterweight.
Taylor, 23, of Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, continually backed Broner, 25, into the ropes and fired overhand rights hoping to catch him like Maidana did. But Broner, who was talking to Taylor during many rounds as they were swapping punches, was also landing hard left hooks and body shots.
Taylor began to slow down after about the sixth round, but there were still several exciting exchanges during the second half of the fight. In the 11th round, Taylor opened a cut over Broner's right eye, but it did not seem to hamper his vision.
The 12th round was a filled with fierce toe-to-toe action and as the time wound down, Broner stepped in with a powerful left uppercut that nailed Taylor and sent him to the mat with 15 seconds left in the fight. He was dazed, but made it to his feet and to the final bell.
"I stepped up in competition against Adrien Broner. I came to his hometown. In the 12th round, I just got caught with a good shot. I was trying to do what I gotta do, make it close. I got caught. I give Adrien Broner props," said Taylor, who dropped to 1-2 in his past three bouts, with the other defeat coming by decision to Chris Algieri, who outpointed Ruslan Provodnikov in his next fight to win a junior welterweight world title.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Broner landed 201 of 524 punches (38 percent) and Taylor connected on 181 of 655 (27 percent).
It was Broner's second win in a row since the loss to Maidana. In May, Broner bounced back with a lopsided -- and unimpressive -- 10-round decision win against Carlos Molina in the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Maidana undercard.
Now, with a second win in a row -- and better performance -- Broner made it clear he wants Matthysse next. Broner said it before the fight and again afterward.
"I didn't kind of call out nobody. I said it. My next fight should be Matthysse, and he can get it," said Broner, who has won world titles in three weight classes, junior lightweight, lightweight and welterweight. "If it was up to me,, I'd fight Matthysse tonight. I'll beat his ass too."
Matthysse knocks out Ortiz
Junior welterweight slugger Lucas Matthysse (36-3, 34 KOs) knocked out Roberto Ortiz (31-1-1, 24 KOs) with a brutal left hook to the body in the second round, although it appeared as though referee Benjy Esteves Jr. did not give Ortiz the full 10-count.
Matthysse, 31, of Argentina, won the opening round and was pushing Ortiz back to the ropes in the second round when he nailed him with the body shot. Ortiz, visibly grimacing, dropped a knee and spit out his mouthpiece. Esteves counted but appeared to wave off the fight as Ortiz was getting to his feet at the count of nine.
Regardless, Esteves waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
"I got him really good in the body," Matthysse said through a translator.
Ortiz, 28, of Mexico, and fighting in the United States for the first time, was upset by the stoppage.
"They just stopped it," he said. "I want a rematch."
He is unlikely to get one. Instead, Matthysse has other fights in mind.
Matthysse, who lost a decision in an upset to 140-pound champion Danny Garcia last September, rebounded for an 11th-round knockout of John Molina in April in a leading fight of the year candidate. Now, Matthysse would like a rematch with Garcia or a showdown with Broner.
"I had a tough fight with Molina but I came prepared for this fight," Matthysse said. "I did not expect this. I challenge Danny Garcia not to be a chicken -- to come and fight me and stop fighting little boxers, to fight a real guy like me. I want Danny Garcia. If not him, Adrien Broner."
Berto cruises past Upsher
Former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs), out of action for 14 months and coming off a major injury to his right shoulder in his last fight and subsequent surgery, ended a two-fight losing skid by easily outpointing Steve Upsher (24-4-1, 6 KOs).
Winter Haven, Florida's Berto, who turns 31 on Sunday, celebrated early by winning 99-91 on all three scorecards to bounce back from a 12th-round knockout loss to Jesus Soto Karass, against whom he injured his shoulder, and a decision loss to Robert Guerrero.
Upsher, 29, of Philadelphia, lost his third fight in a row and was never in the bout against Berto, who dominated all the way. Berto appeared much stronger and landed his punches at a much higher rate.
According to CompuBox statistics, Berto connected on 232 of 453 punches (51 percent) and Upsher landed just 112 of 476 (23 percent). The shots that Upsher landed did not appear to have much steam on them either.
Berto started quickly and established firm control by the third round, when he outlanded Upsher 31-7 and raised swelling around Upsher's right eye.
Berto landed his ram-rod jab throughout the fight and mixed in a number of powerful right hands. By the seventh round he was simply beating up Upsher, who went past eight rounds for the first time in his career in his first scheduled 10-round bout.
"It feels great," Berto said of winning for the first time since he claimed his second world title by knocking out Jan Zaveck in the fifth round in September 2011. "(Trainer Virgil Hunter) made sure my jab is on point, making sure my boxing skills are on point. I've always had power. Always had speed. But he makes me stick to the boxing a little bit more. We'll get better from here.
"I've been off for a while but everything fell into place pretty well. The shoulder feels good."
As for what he would like to do next, Berto said, "The division is wide open" and said he would like to avenge his losses, which were to Soto Karass, Guerrero and Victor Ortiz.