A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:
Saturday at Verona, New York
Luis Ortiz TKO7 Bryan Jennings
Retains an interim heavyweight title
Records: Ortiz (24-0, 21 KOs); Jennings (19-2, 10 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: The heavyweight division is wide open and could be fun again now that Tyson Fury has pulled a huge upset by ending world champion Wladimir Klitschko's 9½-year title reign on Nov. 28. Although Klitschko may very well reclaim the title in their spring rematch, there are new names making the case that they are the future of the heavyweight division.
Among them are titleholder Deontay Wilder, who although facing mediocre opposition, is as entertaining as any of the big men. There is the No. 1 heavyweight prospect in England's big-punching Anthony Joshua, the 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist who is making a bigger impression with each big knockout. Now you must add Ortiz to that list. The southpaw banger looks like an absolute wrecking machine and the real deal, a guy who could make serious noise and do major damage in the division if anyone dares to fight him.
To Jennings' credit, he did but he paid a painful price. Ortiz, 36, a former Cuban amateur standout (a 343-19 record) who defected and lives in Miami, seems to have all the tools. His amateur pedigree is supreme. He has tremendous power, fast hands, good footwork, solid defense and excellent size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds).
He brought that all to bear against Jennings, 31, of Philadelphia (who had just 17 amateur fights). Jennings was coming off an April 25 lopsided decision loss to then-champion Klitschko but turned in a credible performance. He turned in another credible one against Ortiz but was simply outgunned in a really good fight that closed out a fine year of fights on HBO.
Ortiz, making the first defense of the interim belt he won Oct. 17 by one-sided third-round knockout of unknown Matias Ariel Vidondo (Ortiz's second bout after returning from a suspension due to a positive steroid test), had Jennings in major trouble in the opening round after he landed heavy shots that took his legs away. Jennings kept himself together and had a good second round but Ortiz was a man on a mission. He took whatever Jennings could dish out and gave it right back with even more force.
Ortiz had a huge third round as he badly hurt Jennings with an uppercut and chopping left hand. It appeared to be a matter of time until Ortiz was going to take Jennings out and it finally happened in the seventh round. He landed a howitzer of a left uppercut that dropped Jennings face first. Most guys would have been out cold. Jennings, who was in superb condition, rose to his knees quickly and beat the count. Most referees probably would have stopped the fight because Jennings was in a bad way. He was aware of his surroundings but his legs were not in control. Ortiz nailed him with a right hand that sent him into the ropes (it could have been called a knockdown but was not) and then a left hand that rocked his world, at which point referee Richard Pakozdi stepped in to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 41 seconds. While Ortiz, known as "The Real King Kong," climbed the ring post and beat his chest, Jennings had no complaints about the stoppage and even said later that it was a "good stoppage."
It was the end of a tremendous heavyweight fight, one in which Ortiz's stock went through the roof. People are going to want to see him fight. A lot. And even in the loss, Jennings acquitted himself well, made a great fight and showed true professionalism after a tough loss.
Nicholas Walters D10 Jason Sosa
Scores: 95-95 (twice), 96-94 Sosa
Records: Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs); Sosa (18-1-4, 14 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Scan history for the worst decisions you can think of. There is the laughable draw that robbed Lennox Lewis of the undisputed heavyweight championship in his first fight with Evander Holyfield. There is the scandalous draw given to Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. after he was soundly outclassed by Pernell Whitaker. All three judges were suspended for rendering a joke of a decision that gave Paul Williams a majority decision against Erislandy Lara. How about Jose Armando Santa Cruz being blatantly robbed of the lineal lightweight title against Joel Casamayor? And, of course, the gift split decision given to Timothy Bradley Jr. in the first fight with Manny Pacquiao that outraged the world?
Well, add another to the list as Walters, a former featherweight titleholder moving up to junior lightweight, was horribly ripped off and given a draw with Sosa in a fight in which he totally dominated.
Perhaps this fight is not of the same significance as those others but the scoring by judges Don Ackerman and Wynn Kintz (95-95 each), and Tom Schreck (96-94 for Sosa!) was as bad as it gets. Literally every single member of the ringside media had Walters winning easily, mostly by 10-0 or 9-1 in rounds. HBO's Max Kellerman had it 10-0. HBO's Harold Lederman had it 9-1. Social media was awash with landslides for Walters. The scores rendered by the judges were absolutely laughable.
Yes, Sosa, 27, of Camden, New Jersey, in his first fight against a quality opponent, was game and ready to fight. He showed a lot of heart, landed some nice shots and has nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, most people probably would want to see him again because of his spirited effort. But Walters, 29, of Jamaica, in his first fight since being stripped of his 126-pound belt for failing to make weight for a June defense against Miguel Marriaga, ran roughshod over Sosa in every way possible. He was very clearly the heavier hitter and outlanded Sosa in every single round, according to CompuBox punch statistics. Further, he landed way more punches overall, connecting on 281 of 622 (45 percent) while Sosa landed 168 of 873 (19 percent).
Throughout the fight, Walters walked Sosa down and abused him to the body (where he landed 118 punches to Sosa's 39). He manhandled him round after round and rocked him several times. This should have been an easy fight to score because the rounds were not close. It was all Walters in a dominant performance in which he hurt Sosa numerous times. When it was over Walters was very disappointed. When asked how he was scoring the fight in his head he said he won thought he won every round but "it's Christmas, so I gave him one round." In reality, it was the judges who stole a win from Walters and gave Sosa the ultimate Christmas gift of a draw. Everyone should simply view this is a win for Walters and move on, although the judges should be forced to explain themselves.
Vyacheslav Shabranskyy W10 Yunieski Gonzalez
Scores: 98-92, 97-93, 95-95
Records: Shabranskyy (15-0, 12 KOs); Gonzalez (16-2, 12 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Headlining the HBO Latino portion of the card, Shabranskyy, 28, a Ukraine native living in Los Angeles, pulled the mild upset in a terrific battle against Gonzalez, 30, a Cuban defector living in Miami.
While Shabranskyy was coming off a third-round knockout win against Paul Parker in June, the unknown Parker dropped him twice in the first round and left many questioning his chin. A month later, Gonzalez got his first wide exposure when he landed a fight on HBO against former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal. In a blazing battle, Gonzalez seemed to get the better of the action but lost a heavily disputed decision that the judges gave to Pascal 96-94 across the board. With so many believing that Gonzalez beat Pascal and with Shabranskyy having had so many problems last time out, most viewed Gonzalez as the heavy favorite.
It did not quite work out that way as Shabranskyy got the better of the action overall, which heated up in the third round with Shabranskyy hurting Gonzalez on the ropes, Gonzalez coming back and the round ending with them trading toe-to-toe. They both landed big bombs throughout the fight and they both showed good chins, especially Gonzalez after he nailed Shabranskyy with a right hand as the seventh round ended. They closed the fight with a memorable 10th round in which they traded with abandon.
In the end, Shabranskyy got the nod from two judges after having landed 261 of 821 punches (32 percent), according to CompuBox punch statistics, while Gonzalez connected on 178 of 603 blows (30 percent). It was a huge win for Shabranskyy (and his promoter, Golden Boy) because he immediately becomes a fighter to watch closely in an increasingly busy weight division. And even with a second loss in a row, Gonzalez remains a quality fighter fans should want to see again.
Gabriel Rosado W10 Joshua Clottey
Scores: 97-93 (twice), 96-94
Records: Rosado (22-9, 13 KOs); Clottey (39-5, 22 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Few fighters needed a win more than Rosado and he got in a fairly crowd-pleasing fight while also working with former two-time junior middleweight titleholder Fernando Vargas as his trainer for the first time. Rosado, 29, of Philadelphia, who stars in the new Rocky movie "Creed," finally ended a five-fight winless streak, having gone 0-4 with a no decision since 2012 in official boxing matches against top opponents (including in cut-induced stoppage losses in world title fights against Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin), although he went 1-0-1 in unofficial Big Knockout Boxing bouts.
Coming off a one-year layoff, Rosado looked rusty early as Clottey, 38, a Ghana native who fights out of New York, appeared to open a lead. The fight was contracted at 158 pounds to accommodate Clottey, a former welterweight titlist who has been fighting at 154 pounds and looked a lot smaller than Rosado.
As the fight went on Rosado began to get more into the flow, although he eventually had swelling around both eyes but avoided the cuts that have plagued his recent career. Later in the fight Rosado began to force Clottey into the ropes and make him more defensive as he came on strong in the second half of the bout to win the competitive fight. Rosado had Clottey in trouble in the eighth round and Clottey was warned for landing a low blow in the ninth round. It seemed like a very close fight, so they both let it all hang out in the 10th round, but Rosado won the round on two scorecards as he landed some clean shots to force Clottey backward.
It was a good win for Rosado after such a rough stretch. Rosado would like a May shot against middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, but a win over Clottey after a winless streak should not be enough to land that caliber of fight. Clottey saw a four-fight winning streak since back-to-back losses to Miguel Cotto (2009) and Manny Pacquiao (2010) in welterweight title fights come to an end.
Yuriorkis Gamboa W10 Hylon Williams Jr.
Scores: 98-92 (twice), 96-94
Records: Gamboa (25-1, 17 KOs); Williams (16-2-1, 3 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Despite another long layoff, former unified featherweight titlist Gamboa, who turns 34 on Wednesday, looked pretty sharp in a one-sided win against Williams, 25, of Houston.
Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected and fights out of Miami, has had chronic inactivity. He was fighting for only the fourth time since 2013 and for the first time in 13 months, partly due to his own doing -- turning down fights -- and partly due to the weak promotional efforts of rap star Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who was ringside. Gamboa, two fights removed from a ninth-round knockout loss to then-lightweight champion Terence Crawford in a 2014 fight of the year candidate, looked fast and powerful as he beat Williams to the punch throughout the fight and landed a lot of clean shots with both hands.
Williams, who isn't a puncher at all, didn't look as though he had any impact on Gamboa with his punches, even though Gamboa has been knocked down several times. After a three-year layoff, Williams is now 0-1-1 since his return in August. Ultimately, Gamboa got in 10 solid rounds and hopefully will stay more active. A title shot at junior lightweight would not be out of the question or even a fight with fellow former featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters, which would be very interesting.
Saturday at Manchester, England
Billy Joe Saunders W12 Andy Lee
Wins a middleweight title
Scores: 115-111, 114-112, 113-113
Records: Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs); Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: After two postponements of Lee's mandatory defense it was hardly worth the wait. Instead of an exciting fight that they promised we got one action-packed round and little else but a fight devoid of entertainment unless your thing is watching a passive Lee getting jabbed around the ring by fellow southpaw Saunders.
Lee, 31, of Ireland, a 2004 Olympian, and Saunders, 26, of England, a 2008 Olympian, were due to fight Sept. 19 in Lee's hometown of Limerick, but Lee came down with a virus and the fight was postponed. It was rescheduled for Oct. 10 in Manchester but Saunders suffered a cut over his right eye during a sparring session, forcing a second postponement.
Lee won the vacant belt last December when he rallied from being way down on all three scorecards for a one-punch knockout of Matt Korobov courtesy of his awesome right hook. Lee retained the title on April 11 in a split draw against overweight Peter Quillin in a fight in which he knocked Quillin down but got dropped twice himself.
Against Saunders, Lee, making his second defense, also tasted the canvas as Saunders floored him twice in the wild third round. The first knockdown came on a right hook out of nowhere and the second came moments later on another counter right hand that forced Lee to catch himself on the mat with his gloves from going all the way down.
From there, Saunders was content to jab, jab and jab some more as he was obviously very wary of Lee's power. It was not the most entertaining game plan to watch him execute but it worked because Lee was not aggressive at all until the last few rounds when perhaps he realized his title was slipping away.
"I'm world champion," Saunders said. "I beat a good champion today, a good sturdy champion. I used his power against him. When I was boxing he got a little bit careless and dropped his lead hand and I caught him with the hook. I'm not going to start running my mouth, but it was a good shot. With someone as fast as me you have to keep your hands up. I'm not the biggest puncher in the world, but I showed you there that I can punch."
Had Lee won most believed he would embrace an immediate unification fight in 2016 with either Gennady Golovkin or Daniel Jacobs, both of which would be high-profile fights the fans would probably get behind. However with Saunders taking the belt few believe he will accept that caliber of fight right away or that his promoter, Frank Warren, will look to make that fight. Saunders more likely will remain in England and look to protect the belt against at least a couple of soft touches. Hopefully, he and Warren prove the conventional wisdom wrong.
Liam Smith TKO7 Jimmy Kelly
Retains a junior middleweight title
Records: Smith (22-0-1, 12 KOs); Kelly (16-1, 7 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: After inactive Demetrius Andrade was stripped of his 154-pound world title, Smith squared off with John Thompson on Oct. 10 for the vacant belt and Smith knocked him out in the seventh round.
Making his first defense, Smith, 27, of England, took on countryman Kelly, 23, in what was billed as a rival city fight because Smith is from Liverpool and Kelly from Manchester, and there had not been a world title bout between fighters from those cities in more than 80 years. Kelly came into the fight with a glossy record built against nobodies and his inexperience showed as Smith broke him down with accurate body and head shots. The most Kelly could must on offense was to purposely head butt Smith in the sixth round, which did not fly with referee Marcus McDonnell, who docked him two points for the flagrant foul. As Smith continued to dole out punishment to a bloodied, battered and exhausted Kelly in the seventh round, Kelly's trainer Ensley Bingham -- who challenged for the same belt in a lopsided decision loss to Winky Wright in 1996 -- threw in the towel and McDonnell stopped the bout at 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
Smith said he knew all along that he was the more talented fight. "Kelly put up a tough challenge, but I knew that I was levels above him," Smith said. "I was comfortable in there and I started breaking him down from the beginning and I knew I was hurting him when I was landing the body shots. He was a hard man and was hanging in there and I said to his corner to pull their man out. They did in the seventh. I'm sure Kelly can build himself back up again. As for me, I'd love a unification fight in 2016. I know there are big fights on the horizon and I can't wait."
Friday at Las Vegas
Rances Barthelemy W12 Denis Shafikov
Wins a vacant lightweight title
Scores: 119-109, 116-112 (twice)
Records: Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs); Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Barthelemy, 29, a Cuban defector fighting out of Las Vegas, won a junior lightweight world title in 2014, made one dominant defense and then vacated the belt when it became increasingly difficult for him to make 130 pounds. Now he has a second world title in his collection after a strong performance in outpointing 30-year-old Russian southpaw Shafikov, who failed in his second shot at a world title, having lost a decision challenging then-titleholder Miguel Vazquez in 2014 in Macau, China. Shafikov won his next fights to box his way into the fight with Barthelemy as they met for the belt stripped from Mickey Bey for his refusal to fight Shafikov, his mandatory challenger.
As expected, Shafikov was the aggressor and that paid off through the first half of the fight when he appeared to give Barthelemy all kinds of problems, especially with his body attack. But Barthelemy turned things around, boxed well over the second half of the entertaining bout and slowed Shafikov down a bit when he opened a cut over his right eye late in the seventh round that he targeted thereafter. The blood flowed and referee Vic Drakulich called for the ringside doctor to examine the wound during the eighth round.
Barthelemy finished strongly, outlanding Shafikov 43-18 over last three rounds, according to CompuBox punch statistics, to leave little doubt that he had won -- although the 119-109 scorecard turned in by judge Robert Hoyle was way out of line. Overall, Barthelemy landed 260 of 871 punches (30 percent) and Shafikov connected on 228 of 931 punches (25 percent).
Murat Gassiev No Decision 3 Isiah Thomas
Cruiserweight title eliminator
Records: Gassiev (22-0, 16 KOs); Thomas (15-0, 6 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Power-punching Gassiev, 22, of Russia, and Thomas, a 26-year-old slick southpaw from Detroit (yes, he is named after the Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons point guard, whom his mother was a big fan of), met with a lot on the line -- a shot at world titleholder Victor Emilio Ramirez (22-2-1, 17 KOs) of Argentina. Neither will get the shot based on this result, a disappointing no decision due to an unusual ending.
Through the first three rounds, Thomas did a nice job of outboxing Gassiev. But at the end of the third round Gassiev landed two wicked shots to the head. He bashed Thomas into the ropes with a powerful right hand and then landed a second right hand. However, the second one landed just after the bell -- although clearly not on purpose -- and referee Jay Nady decided to stop the fight on advice of the ringside doctor and ruled it a no decision because of the accidental foul. Nady said Thomas was in a diminished state from the late blow and unable to continue. Because four rounds had not been completed it was a no decision rather than going to the scorecards for a technical decision.
Eric Walker W8 Chris Pearson
Scores: 80-72, 79-71, 78-74
Records: Walker (12-0, 6 KOs); Pearson (13-1, 10 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Pearson, 25, of Dayton, Ohio, a blue-chip prospect in the Floyd Mayweather promotional stable, suffered a bad upset loss to Walker, 32, of Plaquemine, Louisiana, who had spent 13 years in prison. Pearson had faced much better opponents -- and done well -- but not on this night. Walker, whose record was built against horrific opposition, soundly outboxed and outfought him in an entertaining battle. Walker surprisingly dominated most of the fight, which featured exciting exchanges, especially in the fifth round (when Pearson was rocked) and the final three rounds of the fight that had the crowd, which included Mayweather, on its feet.
"If you believe in God and work hard at what you're doing, you're going to succeed," Walker said. "Look at me now. I had watched his previous fights and knew that my right hand would be too much for him and that I could land it anytime. My conditioning was really the difference. I was in great shape and I was able to rely on that when the going got tough." Pearson was humble in defeat and said he hoped to get a rematch. "I take my hat off to him," Pearson said. "His punches were crisp and hard. I just couldn't get going on anything consistently. I thought it was closer than the judges' scorecards and I definitely want a rematch as soon as possible."
Gervonta "Tank" Davis KO9 Luis Sanchez
Records: Davis (14-0, 13 KOs); Sanchez (17-5-1, 5 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Davis, 21, of Baltimore, has gotten his share of hype, especially from promoter Floyd Mayweather, who has talked him up and was ringside to watch him take out Sanchez, 23, of Mexico, in a hard-fought fight. Sanchez forced Davis to go beyond six rounds for the first time but ultimately felt his power. Davis dropped Sanchez with an uppercut in the eight round and then knocked him down with a nasty left hook in the ninth round. He went down hard and referee Kenny Bayless did not bother to finish the count as he waved it off at 2 minutes, 5 seconds.
"It felt great to fight all of these rounds and get the work in," Davis said. "He's a tough fighter and I learned a great deal tonight. It was a very good experience for me. I just listened to my corner and Floyd, took my time and broke him down. I want to fight again as soon as possible for a world title."
Two former world titleholders were also on the card: Former lightweight titlist Mickey Bey (22-1-1, 10 KOs), 32, of Cleveland, fought for the first fight since winning a belt in September 2014 and getting stripped of it for turning down career-high money multiple times to make his mandatory defense against Denis Shafikov. Bey rolled to a near-shutout decision against Niam Nelson (12-1-1, 1 KO), 25, of Philadelphia, winning by scores of 100-90, 100-90 and 99-91. Also, former junior middleweight titlist Ishe Smith (28-8, 12 KOs), 37, of Las Vegas, cruised to a shutout decision against 35-year-old club fighter Tommy Rainone (24-7-1, 5 KOs), 35, of Plainview, New York, winning 100-90 on all three scorecards.
Friday at Indio, California
Joseph Diaz Jr. TKO2 Hugo Partida
Records: Diaz (19-0, 11 KOs); Partida (21-7-2, 16 KOs)
Rafael's remarks: Diaz, 23, a 2012 U.S. Olympian from South El Monte, California, finished off a fine 5-0 year with a blistering destruction of Partida, 27, of Mexico, who lost his third fight in a row, including two by knockout inside two rounds. Diaz, a top-tier prospect with a fan-friendly style, blasted out Partida, who could not deal with Diaz's speed and power. Diaz punished him with body blows in the opening round and when he trapped him on the ropes in the second round and hammered him with about 10 unanswered left hooks to the head, referee Pat Russell intervened to stop the fight at 1 minute, 32 seconds.
"We came with a great game plan to land effective shots right away and to dig to the body and try to hurt him," Diaz said. "I dug into the body in the first round and had him hurt. And then I put some good powerful shots on top and got him out. He connected with a good shot, but I didn't feel anything at all. I just acknowledge him for getting a good shot in. I didn't let it affect me at all. I knew that I had to take care of business and get the win no matter what. I hope to get the top 10 guys in my division, fight on the bigger networks and get a title shot by the end of next year. I feel very strong at this weight, and I make the weight pretty good. I just feel like 126 is going to be my weight."
Taishan Dong W4 Daniel Arambula
Scores: 39-36 (twice), 38-37
Records: Dong (6-0, 3 KOs); Arambula (3-2, 1 KO)
Rafael's remarks: The 27-year-old Taishan, a 7-foot, 280-pound mountain of a man from China, has awesome size but is a project as a boxer. He is extraordinarily raw but his size is so tantalizing he will be given every opportunity to see if he can become a serious fighter. At the moment he is not. He needs work in every area possible but he got in four ugly rounds as he wrestled his way to a decision over Arambula, 24, of Mexico, who at 212 pounds looked puny compared to him. Taishan struggled against Arambula and should he ever fight a real opponent he will not be able to rely on only his size to get a win. He recognizes that he needs work.
"I'm not very happy because I wanted the knockout," Taishan said. "I had a lot of practice, but I think I still need to train more."