Despite suffering two cuts near his left eye, Steven Nelson dominated DeAndre Ware in a sixth-round TKO victory on the Jamel Herring-Jonathan Oquendo Top Rank undercard at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Nelson slowly built up momentum in the early rounds, walking down Ware and then closing the show emphatically in the sixth round as he had blood streaming down his face from cuts suffered from accidental head-butts.
The only real adversity Nelson (17-0, 14 KOs) faced were those two cuts, as he controlled the action from the first bell.
In the fifth round, Nelson was starting to ramp up the pressure by landing punches to the body. But after suffering the second cut, there was a sense of urgency from Nelson. So, in the sixth round, Nelson came out with a purpose, landing numerous right hands on Ware, who simply couldn't hold him off. A left hook wobbled Ware, and then a follow-up barrage of punches caused referee Jay Nady to halt the action.
"When that second cut came, I was like, I know how fighters are when they see an injury," Nelson said after the victory. "So I said, 'You know what, I have to get to work.' My plan was to go out there and feel him out, don't rush it too much. That's why the first couple of rounds, I wasn't doing too much, and then I picked it up. The head-butt was the perfect time for me to pick it up.
"I got the win. I got the stoppage, and that's all that matters at the end of the day. A win is a win."
With the victory, Nelson, 32, a stablemate of WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, who was in attendance Saturday night, moved a step closer to a super middleweight title shot.
"I feel like I'm ready for a title eliminator, and then let's go for the title," Nelson said. "That was my whole plan, to set myself up where they can't deny me a world title."
Rodriguez stops Rivera in Round 1
Junior flyweight prospect Jesse Rodriguez put on a great performance Saturday, requiring less than a round to stop veteran Janiel Rivera. Rodriguez sent Rivera to the canvas three times in the process, before referee Russell Mora stepped in at 2:03 minutes to stop the fight.
Rodriguez (12-0, 8 KOs) didn't waste any time getting started, as he stalked Rivera (18-7-3, 11 KOs) patiently in the opening minute. A four-punch combination was capped by a sweeping left hand, which left Rivera stunned and hanging on the ropes for the first knockdown.
After the eight-count, Rodriguez struck Rivera with a pinpoint-accurate left hand that knocked him down for the second time. Another booming left hand sent Rivera to the floor for the third and final time. It was an exhibition of power and precision from Rodriguez for as long as the fight lasted.
"I felt amazing," Rodriguez said after the fight. "I told [trainer] Robert [Garcia] in the locker room, 'This is the best I've ever felt.' I think I showed that today."
Rodriguez, the younger brother of WBA "regular" junior bantamweight titlist Joshua Franco, is one of the most talented young boxers in the sport.
"To have a brother as a champion is really motivating to me," Rodriguez said. "In camp, I was thinking that my brother became a champ, and I can do the same. There were times in camp I didn't feel like working out or running, but I thought about my brother and he motivated me. Just the thought of him being a world champ brought out the best of me in camp.
"I just want to be the best. Every fight, I want to be a better me. I'm always willing to go the extra mile. I work hard for opportunities like this."
Anderson scored sixth straight TKO win
Top heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson remained undefeated, dominating Rodney Hernandez on his way to a fourth-round TKO victory. Anderson took his time and slowly broke down Hernandez, hurt him and sent him to the canvas in Round 4, forcing referee Robert Hoyle to wave things off at 2:22 of the round.
Anderson (6-0, 6 KOs) had to deal with the aggression of Hernandez (13-10-2, 4 KOs) in the first round, but by the second, Anderson moved into a southpaw stance and began to dissect Hernandez, using a series of hard left hands and uppercuts down the middle.
Anderson went back to the orthodox stance in the third round, softening up Hernandez with left hooks to the body. Then in the fourth, fighting mainly as a southpaw, Anderson hurt and wobbled Hernandez with a lashing left hand to the head, followed a few seconds later by a well-placed short left hand, which sent Hernandez to the canvas to end the fight.
It was a controlled and composed effort for Anderson, who landed 90 punches (out of 260 thrown) while taking just 22 from Hernandez, who threw 132 on the night.
"We're ready for everybody. We're building up," Anderson said after the fight. "Bob [Arum] is moving me perfectly. It was about getting those rounds in and showing I can really box. I'm not just a puncher. I know how to box, and I know how to stay on my back foot."
This fight, which was supposed to be a step up for Anderson, showed why he is considered one of the best young American big men.
Whitaker returns with victory
The second visit to the Top Rank bubble for welterweight Benjamin Whitaker was a successful one, as he scored a one-sided, six-round unanimous decision over D'Andre Smith by the scores of 59-55, 60-54 and 60-54.
Whitaker (14-4, 3 KOs) -- who dropped a six-round decision to Vlad Panin on June 25 in this same venue -- was simply the busier and steadier boxer of the two. While Smith (8-1, 5 KOs) boxed well in spots, for the most part he was outworked by Whitaker, who landed quick jabs and good combinations on the inside.
Smith was effective at times with counterpunches, but he never mounted a consistent attack that bothered Whitaker.
Cervera stops Oliver
Ruben Cervera scored an eye-opening second-round TKO of Rennard Oliver with a perfectly placed overhand right, which left Wilson frozen near the ropes and forced referee Russell Mora to wave off the fight at 1:42 of the round.
From the beginning, Oliver (7-3-3) was hesitant to engage the aggressive Cervera (13-2, 11 KOs), who marched forward unimpeded and began to attack Oliver's body with a series of chopping left hooks. The difference in power between the two was evident, and Oliver was never comfortable exchanging punches with Cervera.
After a first-round knockdown of Oliver was overturned by instant replay before the second round began, Cervera ended things dramatically to score his second win inside the Top Rank bubble. Cervera defeated Clay Burns by decision on July 14.
Vazquez wins, stays unbeaten
Edward Vazquez (8-0, 1 KOs) overcame a second-round trip to the canvas to score a hard-earned decision over Adan Ochoa (11-2, 4 KOs). After six well-contested rounds, all three judges scored the fight for Vazquez: 57-56, 58-55 and 58-55.
Outside of the second round, when an overhand right hand from Ochoa sent Vazquez to the canvas, there wasn't much that separated the two fighters, who took turns landing good punches on each other consistently.
At times, Vazquez was backing up, but at other moments he was the one going forward and pressing the action against Ochoa. Neither man was ever completely able to take control of the action for long stretches.
Jefferson dominates Martinez, wins decision
Rashiem Jefferson scored a four-round decision over Jose Martinez by scores of 39-37, 40-36 and 40-36.
Jefferson, 19, of Philadelphia, boxed deftly from the outside out of a southpaw stance for much of this bout. Martinez (2-2, 1 KOs) ramped up the aggression and pressure in Rounds 3 and 4, but Jefferson (2-0, 1 KOs) landed the more precise and accurate punches.
For Martinez, it was another loss inside the Top Rank bubble. He also dropped a four-round decision to Frevian Robles on June 18. Jefferson, who showed off a smooth boxing style on Saturday, is a young prospect to keep an eye on.