BOXING

Danny Garcia TKOs Brandon Rios, Beltran becomes a Champion!

Danny Garcia Stops Brandon Rios, Looks Toward Keith Thurman and Errol Spence

Danny Garcia took what Brandon Rios does best and used it against him, landing counter punch after counter punch on someone willing to take shots and keep coming forward.

That’s what Garcia and Rios did right until the right counter punch landed — the one that no longer had Rios coming forward, but falling backward.

That punch came in the ninth-round, giving Garcia the technical knockout victory and putting him in position for a rematch with Keith Thurman or a shot at Errol Spence.

It probably seems absurd to you that a win over Rios is all that Garcia needed to get another title shot. After all, Rios had done nothing to be in this title elimination bout in the first place beyond having the right promoter. We’d barely heard from him since his 2015 loss to Timothy Bradley. He’d then taken a year and a half off, returning last June with a win over the limited Aaron Herrera.

It didn’t help that in the opening rounds, Rios looked every bit the rusty, over-his-best-weight and past-his-best-days fighter we thought he was. But then the rust started to come off, and we began to see more of the willing warrior Rios had once been.

Rios was making Garcia fight. Garcia landed combinations to the head and body to fend Rios off, then would move and start over again. Rios’ activity actually gave him the edge in the sixth round. But then Garcia dominated the seventh.

The round began with Garcia again moving well, stopping only when pressed against the ropes, where he’d land in close, dodge punches and then get away. He issued hard counters, sending out right crosses over Rios’ left jab — a counter that landed several times — and dishing out a left hook over Rios’ right hand.

The right hand landed again and again in the ninth as well, bringing blood from below Rios’ left eye. Rios began to show some signs of wearing down. Then he threw out a jab mid-ring, and Garcia countered with a hard right hand that sent Rios crashing down

Rios rose slowly but beat the count at eight. The referee asked him to come forward. Rios hesitated at first, then stumbled. The referee waved the fight off. Rios protested, ye it was the right call.

Garcia is now 34-1 with 20 knockouts. The former junior welterweight champion and welterweight titleholder is now in position for a rematch with Thurman, who took Garcia’s belt last year.

Thurman hasn’t fought since then, taking time off due to an injury and the surgery to repair it. He is expected to return this spring against a lesser foe and then would be willing to face the likes of Garcia. The other option for Garcia is Errol Spence. Spence would prefer Thurman. Yet Thurman doesn’t want to face Spence just yet, particularly not so soon after returning from being hurt.

Rios, meanwhile, is now 34-3-1 with 25 KOs. The loss is another setback, but he showed enough in defeat that he’ll get another chance. Look for him to face someone like Shawn Porter or Devon Alexander, or to perhaps finally have his grudge match with Victor Ortiz.

Ray Beltran At Last Wins World Title, Defeats Paulus Moses By Decision

It has been a long road to a world title for Ray Beltran. He’s been a pro fighter since 1999. Most fighters debut and retire in the time it took for Beltran to have a title belt around his waist.

Beltran never gave up, though, and now he’s been rewarded for it. The 36-year-old defeated Paulus Moses by unanimous decision on Friday and captured the vacant WBO world title.

Beltran came up the hard way, turning pro just shy of his 18th birthday and learning the ropes by taking a few steps forward, then one step back. He lost in his third fight, then again in his seventh, but he kept going. He’d still fall short on occasion, though these defeats were now coming at a higher level. It helped that he was often sparring with Manny Pacquiao and learning from one of the best.

By 2012, Beltran had lost six times but was at last coming into his prime. He edged Hank Lundy and then, in 2013, traveled to Scotland for his first world title shot, some 14 years into his career. He returned home empty-handed, however, the victim of a robbery. Most people thought Beltran had done enough to beat Ricky Burns. Instead, the judges had it a draw — one scored it for Beltran, one for Burns, and the other had it even.

Beltran had no chance of winning his second title shot, getting soundly out-boxed by the extraordinarily talented Terence Crawford in 2014. Crawford soon vacated his title and headed up to junior welterweight, and that allowed Beltran to get a third chance. Alas, he failed to make weight for his title fight with Takahiro Ao in 2015. Beltran obliterated Ao in less than five minutes, and then had that result overturned after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

He remained in the picture at lightweight, though, destroying Mason Menard and Jonathan Maicelo, then edging Bryan Vasquez last year. He was the mandatory challenger for Terry Flanagan’s world title. And when Flanagan vacated his belt and moved up to 140, Beltran got his fourth title shot.

His opponent may have seemed ripe for the picking. Paulus Moses was 39, a career-long lightweight whose best days were nearly a decade gone by. Moses held a world title from 2009 to 2010, losing it to Miguel Acosta, then falling short against Ricky Burns in 2012. Moses had only lost once more since then, yet Beltran was still the clear favorite going into their fight.

Moses put forth a strong effort. He felt Beltran’s power in the early rounds, then found a rhythm, taking less punishment and landing more of his own shots. By the third, blood was trickling down from over Beltran’s left eye. Another cut opened up over his right eye in the fifth.

Beltran had his knees buckled early in the ninth, dodging a jab but remaining in range for Moses’ right hand. He recovered, finished the fight stronger and took a competitive but clear unanimous decision. Two judges had it 117-111, with nine rounds to Beltran and three to Moses. The other judge had it 116-112, or eight rounds to four.

Beltran is now 35-7-1 with 21 KOs. He’s at last got a world title, though he’s still not considered one of the best at lightweight. That distinction would belong to Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia. Junior lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko will also soon be moving up to 135. There’ve been negotiations for Lomachenko and Linares to face off in May. If that doesn’t happen, Beltran could wind up defending against Lomachenko. There’s just the nagging matter of whether Beltran’s cuts will have healed up enough before then.

A unification bout between Beltran and Robert Easter Jr. would actually be a more competitive and entertaining affair. Alas, that pairing seems highly unlikely at the moment.

Moses is now 40-4 with 25 KOs.

Bryant Jennings Scores Third Straight TKO Against Pedestrian Opposition

Two things are rather clear when it comes to Bryant Jennings:

1. Fights with the best heavyweights in the world are not yet available to him.
2. There have to be better opponents available than the guys he’s been facing.

Jennings made that second point abundantly clear once again last Friday, fighting early in the undercard against the tubby, unheralded Akhror Muralimov.

A quick glance at Muralimov’s record shows why he was there: He falls short against a certain level of heavyweights. He’d lost three in a row coming into this fight, dropping a decision to decent journeyman Derric Rossy, getting blasted out in three by rising contender Jarrell Miller, then losing on points to a prospect named Jermaine Franklin.

Jennings quickly furthered the trend, putting Muralimov down five times in three rounds for a technical knockout win.

Muralimov at least was there to fight. He came forward from the outset and tried to land, getting in a few shots to Jennings’ body, but he otherwise just wasn’t good enough to be in there with a fighter on Jennings’ level.

Jennings had little problem blocking or avoiding punches, and then he rocked Muralimov with a left hook in the final minute of the first round. Two quick follow-up right hands helped convince Muralimov that he should visit the canvas. Muralimov beat the count, rising at eight. He was wobbled by the next right hand from Jennings and dropped again after a barrage just before the bell.

Again, Muralimov remained brave. He came out aggressively to start the second. Jennings boxed patiently, finding openings for hard shots to the head and body, hurting Muralimov with a right hand counter with about 20 seconds left, then putting him down for a third time with a right hand. Muralimov made it out of the second round and returned for the third. He didn’t remain standing for long. Jennings knocked Muralimov down with a pair of looping right hands 53 seconds in. Muralimov got right back up, then got put right back down with a four-punch combination.

At last, referee Jay Nady had seen enough.

Jennings is now 22-2 with 13 KOs. He’s won three straight since returning from a 20-month layoff, time spent away from the ring after suffering a decision loss to Wladimir Klitschko in early 2015 and a devastating stoppage loss to Luis Ortiz later that year.

That’s the level Jennings would like to be at again. The top fighters are otherwise tied up right now: Deontay Wilder is defending against Ortiz next month, and Anthony Joshua will face Joseph Parker in a unification bout.

That doesn’t mean Jennings needs to settle for the likes of Muralimov (16-4, 13 KOs). There are better opponents available. He’ll need to beat them in order to get another shot at the top.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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