It’s great to be back at The World’s Most Famous Arena. Love going here to watch fights, and it’s even better to come here to cover a fight. Tonight, The Hulu Theatre is hosting the long-awaited return of WBA/IBF/WBO Lightweight Champion Teofimo Lopez, as he (finally) defends his belts against his mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. I came in lowkey hoping for a fire fight to make up for long wait. Man, oh man, was I shocked at the outcome.
Got there early so I was able to catch all the fights, including the non-televised portion. First fight was the pro debut of Anthony Herrera as he took on Jonathan Tejada (also debuting). Fight lasted 2 rounds, but it was fun while it lasted. Both guys were throwing punches. Questionable stoppage in my eyes, but Herrera looked good. Christina Cruz vs Marygueen Vellinga. Cruz looked sharp, had fast hands, and good pop. Easy win (60-54 x2, 59-55). After that was Ramla Ali vs Isela Vera. I was very impressed with Ali. Looked very sharp and had a nice jab. She has some real skills, Vera had nothing for her. Ali won by an easy UD (40-36 on all cards). I look forward to seeing her fight in the future.
Afterwards the televised portion of the card started, and the seats were starting to fill up. First fight on the main card was Zhilei Zhang vs Craig Lewis. Zhang looked very poor in his last fight out against Jerry Forrest, which ended in a majority draw. So, I was curious to see how he would look this time around. Zhang looked much sharper against Lewis, hurting him multiple times. Had him dancing and got him out early. Much better performance, but there’s still a ton of room for improvement for Zhang. He’s not nearly ready for any of the better competition at Heavyweight. Despite having a size advantage, he’ll get hurt if he steps up at this time.
Next fight was young Raymond Ford taking on Felix Caraballo. It was a good scrap. Ford was pushed against the ropes and Caraballo hit him with a couple shots (not all landed). The Puerto Rican crowd was cheering loud for every punch he lands (or didn’t land). Ford landed the harder punches though, albeit sloppy at times. Ford has a nasty habit of going back to the ropes, and he ends up getting caught every time. He needs to stop that because it won’t serve him well as he steps ups in competition. He was able to get the late stoppage (8th round TKO), as Caraballo was spent. However, there were a lot of questions unanswered. Ford is young and has a lot of potential, but he needs to work on some things going forward. Hopefully this fight will be good for his development. A lot remains to be seen.
The co main event was Azinga Fuzile vs. Kenichi Ogawa, for the Vacant IBF Super Featherweight title. Ogawa was giving Fuzile tons of trouble early. His jab was working effectively, while Fuzile was lunging in with wide hooks that are off the mark. Ogawa was the effective aggressor. Fuzile was put down in the 6th with a big shot, and he looked ready to go. Shocked he survived the round. Fuzile looked like a complete mess as the fight progressed. Beat up, cut, broken nose. Was dropped 2 more times in the 12th, effectively putting an end to any chance he had at winning the fight. Hard fight, but a clear UD win by Ogawa who is now the new IBF Champion at 130 (115-110 2x, 114-111). PS – This fight was what we should have gotten with Casimero vs Rigondeaux LOL.
And now, it’s time for the main event. Teofimo Lopez vs George Kambosos Jr is ready to begin. By this time, the Hulu was completely packed. Not an empty seat in the crowd. They were all rocking with Teo. Every time they should Lopez on the big screen, the crowd let off a loud roar in unison. When Kambosos was shown on screen, he received a barrage of boos. It got even louder in both cheers and boos as both fighters made their ring entrance and were introduced in the ring. But finally, the bell rings. As soon as it rang, Teo comes out swinging. Looking to end the fight early but is very wild in his approach. Kambosos hits Lopez with a counter right towards the end of the round and drops him for his troubles. Crowd turned shocked. And it only got worse. Kambosos was setting Teo up with counters and circling in and out before Lopez had time to plant his feet and hit him with his right hand. He took Lopez’s shots well when they did land. Teo was clearly frustrated and getting boxed up. It’s like he had no gameplan at all. Wasn’t setting anything up, just aggressively trying to land a hard punch to get Kambosos out of there (to no avail). Teo was however able to put together some shots at the end of the 8th to trouble Kambosos. Then starting in the 9th, the tide started turning with Teo putting together offense to trouble Kambosos. Then in the 10th… BOOM!!! Down goes Kambosos! He was hurt bad and on wobbly legs, but still managed to survive as Teo punched himself out. It became a war of attrition, with Lopez’s face all messed up. Kambosos rebounds in the 11th and does well in the 12th. When the bell rang, everybody stood up and cheered. We had a Fight of The Year on our hands here, something very few people expected.
It’s time to go to the scorecards, and there’s a long wait. Me being the boxing fan that I am, knows some controversy is brewing. I’m sitting here waiting for the cards to be read when it was announced there was a split decision. Everyone let out a big “oooooh”. First scorecard was 115-111 in favor of Kambosos. 2nd scorecard was 114-113 in favor of Lopez. 3rd and final scorecard were 115-112 to the winner… still undefeated… AND THE NEW!!! George Kambosos was awarded the split decision and is now the Unified WBA/IBF/WBO Lightweight champion. Crowd booed like crazy at the decision even though the right man in my opinion. The funny part was that when David Diamante said “and still undefeated” the crowd cheered loudly because they thought Teofimo won. Either they didn’t know/forgot Kambosos was also undefeated, or they just heard the “and still” part LOL. Either way, I felt the right man won. I personally had it 115-112 for Kambosos. Afterwards Kambosos gave a good account of himself outside of the ring, taking a shot at the “4 Kings” label the media has been pushing for the Lightweight division, and calling himself “The Emperor” of 135. The crowd cheered and laughed when he said that. Teofimo in turn, went on a rant about how he really won the fight and that he won 10 rounds. The crowd showered him with boos.
All in all, it was a great event that ended with arguably the best fight of 2021. The Lightweight division was turned upside down. We’ll see how things shake up in 2022.
It’s always been a dream to cover a fight in Las Vegas and be able to watch a fight in Las Vegas. I was able to kill 2 birds with one stone. In the house at MGM Grand Arena for the Devin Haney vs Joseph “JoJo” Diaz fight. As most people know the lightweight division was turned on its ear last week when the lineal, unified lightweight champion and arguable p4p top 5 Teofimo Lopez was upset by IBF mandatory George Kambosos Jr in NYC. Kambosos had expressed vehemently that he would like his maiden title defense to be in Australia. He was also interested in fighting Devin Haney to settle the undisputed argument that has been raging since September of 2020. This subsequently increased the stakes for the main event.
Getting there early I was able to catch the beginning of the YouTube portion where the opening fight was Ricardo “El Nino” Sandoval vs Carlos Buitrago. In a back and forth but one-sided scrap, “El Nino” scored the 7th round TKO when the ref determined that Buitrago was starting to take too much punishment. Second fight was Amari Jones vs Timothy Lee. A beautiful counter uppercut from Jones scored a KD in round 1. Amari had quite the reaction coming out. His cheering section was extremely loud during the whole fight. By round 5 it looks like Jones had beaten the fight out of Lee and was extremely close in stopping him. Lee got out of that round but could not survive round 6. With 20 seconds to go, Lee was taking a battering forcing the ref to stop the fight for Jones. Third fight was Alexis Espino vs Rodolfo Gomez Jr. Espino bloodied the nose of Gomez in round 1. Outside of that it was competitive fight. One thing for sure both guys need better head movement. By the end of the fight, they were throwing and landing combinations with bad intentions. I personally thought Espino pulled it out, but the judges saw it different. 2 judges saw it 76-76 with the one winning card for Gomez 77-75. I was surprised it was a majority draw to be honest. In the final bout of the YouTube portion, Ammo Williams scored a controversial stoppage over Quantavious Cash. In round 2, Ammo hit with Cash with a huge shot which made Cash reach out to hold. The ref however stopped the fight just as both fighters tumbled to the canvas. Not even a count or a chance for both fighters to get to their feet. It felt like too quick of a stoppage.
The main card starts off with Marc Castro vs Ronaldo Solis. It was all Castro who scored a knockdown in round 1 and closed the show in round 2 with a thunderous right hand that had Solis slowly slide down the ropes. The ref wisely waved that fight off. Up next was Filip Hrgovic vs. Emir Ahmatovic. Hrgovic getting hit a lot of punches he could be avoiding but he dropped Ahmatovic twice in round 2. Unfortunately, Ahmatovic didn’t escape the next round. Hrgovic cornered and let off a combination that dropped him down to one knee. The ref waved it off. The next fight is an undisputed title defense as Jessica McCaskill defends her belts against late replacement Kandi Wyatt. First 2 rounds had a mean ebb and flow. First round it was McCaskill making a fast start, 2nd round it was Wyatt battling back. After that it was McCaskill landed the heavier blows. Wyatt has a ridiculous chin to not drop from those shots. The ref finally saw enough after a combination in the opening of 8th round stopping the fight for McCaskill. The co-main of the evening is newly signed Matchroom contender Montana Love vs Carlos Diaz. I had no idea beforehand Love blew weight by 4 lbs. Well, the extra weight seems to give Love a little bit more pop in his punches. Diaz would be down 3 times in the second round. 3rd round would be the end as the ref thought Diaz was taking too much punishment and stopped it.
The main event had the arena on edge. JoJo Diaz came into an insane reaction while Devin got booed out of the building. That was incredibly wild seeing as Haney was the hometown fighter. So, a motive for chip on the shoulder was already established. The early rounds see Haney being surgical with his shots while JoJo not offering much of resistance. Any big swing by JoJo got a loud reaction from the crowd. Both then started to invest in body work with the only noticeable sign was the fact that Haney’s mouth was wide open. Diaz in round 4 has a real interest in making this into a dogfight. He slammed him to the canvas and came alive by landing sharp punches to the body and head. Mid rounds were or more less controlled by JoJo Diaz who was able to land his overhand punches for Haney’s shoulder roll defense and picking off Haney’s punches with a tight high guard. In round 9, they got a two-way warning from referee Russell Mora to keep it clean. It was kind of a momentum killer when Haney was landing lead right hands on Diaz. Diaz took advantage afterwards to land right hooks to the body and head. One can imagine how much more both men can take from each other. Don’t get me wrong It’s a very competitive fight. You can feel the fight is far from over. I just couldn’t get over how shaky I thought Haney looked at times. In round 12, Diaz made a final stand, but Haney showed the absolute dog in him. He matched Diaz in output coupled with his superior hand speed until the final bell. It was an extraordinary fight with the judges scoring it 117-111 x2 and 116-112 for Devin Haney. The lightweight division is on fire, but one thing is for sure. All the top lightweights are vulnerable in their own ways. Made more poignant during the media scrum afterwards in which Devin Haney mentioned he doesn’t have too many fights left at 135. I couldn’t agree more as I think him trying to cut down to keep his belt is slowly starting to physically affect him. Hopefully an undisputed fight for all the belts happens sooner rather than later.