BOXING

Kavaliauskas Unimpressive in Robinson Draw, Acosta KOs Lopez

By David Greisman

 

Kavaliauskas Gets Draw With Robinson; Will He Still Get Terence Crawford?

 

Egidijus Kavaliauskas was already in line for a shot at Terence Crawford, and there was talk that Kavaliauskas could be next after Crawford’s pay-per-view bout with Amir Khan on April 20.

 

But just because a fighter has earned a shot at a world title doesn’t mean he’s truly ready to face one of the best of the 147-pound division — and one of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the world.

 

If Kavaliauskas wanted to dispel those doubts, then he needed to perform better than he did on Saturday night against Ray Robinson. He didn’t lose. He didn’t come out victorious either. The fight was ruled a majority draw, a fitting result given that neither man deserved to win.

 

Robinson had a smart game plan, given Kavaliauskas’ characteristic aggression and power-punching. He sought to counter, particularly with the southpaw right hook, and box — not running so much as using smaller yet consistent movements, changing angles or directions to make Kavaliauskas reset. Kavaliauskas had a hard time cutting off the ring and closing the distance on his taller, rangier opponent.

 

The physical pressure from Kavaliauskas did exert mental pressure on Robinson, who wasn’t able to maintain his focus and distance throughout. Kavaliauskas was able to get in on occasion, though not with overwhelming frequency or emphasis. Much of what he landed was to the body. He still landed more than Robinson did. That’s not saying much.

 

According to CompuBox, Kavaliauskas was 88 of 432 on the night, a connect rate of about 20 percent, which meant he landed just one of every five thrown, going about 9 of 43 per round over the course of the 10-round distance. He landed 61 power shots in total, about six per round.

 

Robinson was 70 of 527, a 13 percent connect rate, landing just one of every seven or so thrown, averaging about 7 of 52 per round. Most of what he threw was jabs. He was just 41 of 129 with power shots on the night, going an average of 4 of 13 per round.

 

That didn’t give the judges much to work with. One saw Robinson in control, scoring it 97-93, or seven rounds to three. The other two had it even, 95-95, five rounds apiece.

 

“I was pressuring all the time. He was just running, running, running,” Kavaliauskas, now 21-0-1 with 17 knockouts, said afterward. “I think I won the fight.”

 

Robinson, meanwhile, felt like he’d gotten ripped off. Even though he was the Philadelphian fighting in front of his home crowd, he felt like coming in as the B-side against a Top Rank-promoted fighter on a Top Rank-promoted show meant that the deck had been stacked against him.

 

“I outboxed this guy. He can’t fight somebody that got lateral movement, good jab, good feints,” Robinson said. “I know you guys wanted this guy to win tonight, but I beat him. Simple as that.”

 

Robinson is now 24-3-1 with 12 KOs. The draw felt fair. But so did Robinson’s assessment of Kavaliauskas.

 

It’s hard to see a fighter like Kavaliauskas doing any better against Crawford than he did against Robinson. Crawford is a supremely skilled, incredibly smart and talented boxer, someone who could embarrass and then destroy someone as one-dimensional as Kavaliauskas. Of course, Crawford can do that to a lot of fighters.

 

But that’s why we want to see Crawford in against better fighters than Kavaliauskas. We want to see him against top welterweights, particularly Errol Spence, but also the likes of Keith Thurman. The problem is that promotional and network affiliations mean fights like those are more difficult to make.

 

We already wanted Crawford-Spence even before Kavaliauskas-Robinson. But this only underscores the truth. There’s no need to waste time with Crawford-Kavaliauskas. Crawford deserves better. And so do the fans.

 

Angel Acosta Retains Title, KOing Former Beltholder Ganigan Lopez

 

Angel Acosta isn’t undefeated, but that doesn’t make him unimpressive. The 108-pound titleholder has one inarguable truth about each of his victories: When he wins, he knocks his opponents out.

 

The latest person to fall victim to that reality was Ganigan Lopez, a former titleholder who tried to fight Acosta off before wilting in the eighth round, going down and remaining there, all the fight beaten out of him, listening to the referee count to 10.

 

Acosta packs a lot of power into such a small frame. When he landed, a thudding sound accompanied his shots. He was the aggressor from early on, landing frequently, letting his hands go in particular when he was able to trap Lopez on the ropes. Lopez sought to keep Acosta off but tended to be unsuccessful. Acosta didn’t feel threatened or bothered, coming forward with impunity. 

 

But of all the shots that Acosta let go and landed, it was actually a counter shot that did the most damage, scoring with a left hook in the second round that had Lopez holding on. It was the same punch that would wind up ending the fight later on.

 

Lopez did dig in and try to fight back, digging to the body, sending out combinations. It seemed, however, that whatever good work he did would be erased once Acosta landed something with more impact. And Acosta was having an impact, bringing blood from Lopez’s nose in Round 5. He dug to Lopez’s body in Round 7, then pulled Lopez to the canvas with a glove behind the head.

 

A legitimate knockdown — the first, only, and final — came one round later. Again, Acosta countered with a left hook. Lopez was badly wobbled. Acosta closed in, landing some and missing others, and Lopez stumbled forward as he tried to hold on, ultimately falling to the canvas instead. The referee counted, and 10 seconds later the fight was over.

 

Acosta is now 20-1 with 20 KOs. He’d lost in his first world title shot nearly two years ago, dropping a decision in Japan to Kosei Tanaka, a prodigy who’s since gone up to flyweight and become a three-division titleholder. Tanaka’s departure allowed Acosta to capture the vacant belt at the end of 2017, and he’s since defended it three times, stopping former contender Carlos Buitrago, making quick work of Abraham Rodriguez, and breaking down Lopez.

 

If he wants to unify, that could mean a return trip to Japan, home to titleholders Ken Shiro and Hiroto Kyoguchi. Acosta, who hails from Puerto Rico, could also travel to Latin America to face Felix Alvarado of Nicaragua.

 

Lopez is now 35-9 with 19 KOs. He’d held a world title as recently as 2017, when he lost a close decision to Shiro. The division seems to be leaving him behind. Shiro easily won their rematch last year. Lopez is 37 years old, which is ancient for these lightest weight classes, particularly so when the top fighters are not only younger, but stronger and better as well. Better to realize that now than to learn that lesson too late.

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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