BOXING

Ortiz Stops Jennings; Saunders, Barthelemy Win Titles

Ortiz Beats Jennings, Becomes Heavyweight Contender

Luis Ortiz isn’t the first person to beat Bryant Jennings, but that doesn’t make the way Ortiz beat him any less impressive. He stunned Jennings multiple times, knocked him down once, won by technical knockout in the seventh round and became a bona fide heavyweight contender in the process.

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Ortiz is a product of the acclaimed Cuban amateur system. Jennings had a very brief amateur career and has since learned while progressing through the professional ranks. He lost a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko, who at the time was still the heavyweight champion, earlier in 2015. That may have emboldened Jennings to believe he belonged in with the best big men in the sport. It didn’t prepare him for someone as skilled as Ortiz proved to be.

Jennings was aggressive in the first round. That aggression put him in the path of a beautiful, short counter right hook from the southpaw Ortiz, who followed with a hard left hand to the body. Jennings retreated, and Ortiz pursued with hard shots that had Jennings holding on. Ortiz dominated the rest of the round.

Jennings then went to work trying to regain control in the second, moving closer to Ortiz, in effect smothering him with activity and leaving Ortiz less room and fewer chances to throw and land. Ortiz quickly adjusted, using a bit of foot movement to get himself enough space on the inside so that he could throw hard shots to Jennings’ body and head. He shoved Jennings away when that didn’t work.

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Ortiz took advantage of the close proximity in the seventh round. Jennings had his head down, trying to loop punches around Ortiz’s guard. Ortiz threw a left uppercut between Jennings’ gloves, adjusted his feet and threw a right uppercut, adjusted again and threw a left uppercut. Jennings stepped forward and into the path of another left uppercut. Jennings fell forward, was still visibly hurt when he got up, and he nodded to acknowledge this fact. Ortiz soon wobbled Jennings again with a right hook. Jennings careened against the ropes and the referee jumped in.

Ortiz said afterward that he wants to challenge the three biggest names at heavyweight: Tyson Fury, Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder. Fury and Klitschko are expected to have a rematch in 2016. Wilder has a date with Artur Szpilka in January. Ortiz deserves a shot. He’ll just have to wait for one.

 

Saunders Scores Two Knockdowns, Tops Lee For Middleweight Title

One round proved to be the difference between Andy Lee leaving with his middleweight title still around his waist and what happened instead — Billy Joe Saunders picking up a very close decision and the belt in a tactical fight.

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Saunders is a skilled boxer. Lee, meanwhile, has good power but is most effective with those heavy hands when countering his opponent’s aggression. And so the first couple of rounds were tentative, with Lee searching for openings and opportunities while Saunders caught him with a few decent shots.

Lee finally found a home for his southpaw left cross early in the third. The round quickly turned in Saunders’ favor. Saunders came forward with two jabs and Lee responded with a left hand. Saunders ducked under it, though, and came up with a right hook that hit Lee flush on the jaw and sent him to the canvas. Lee was up at the count of five. He wasn’t steady yet and tried to hold on. Saunders landed a left hand, followed with two more right hooks and Lee was down for the second time.

Lee made it to the end of the round. Saunders never pursued the finish too aggressively — he was aware of the fantastic counter punches that Lee had landed in come-from-behind wins against John Jackson and Matt Korobov when they were reckless in 2014; a counter from Lee also had floored Peter Quillin earlier this year. Lee didn’t open up either until the final rounds, when the decision was in the balance. He still had to be careful given what had happened earlier.

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The judges gave Saunders the edge in enough of the close rounds. The scorecards were a 113-113 draw overruled by two judges seeing it 114-112 and 115-111 for Saunders. If not for those two knockdowns and the two additional points deducted from Lee, the scores would’ve been 115-113 for Lee, a 114-114 draw and 115-113 for Saunders — a split draw that would’ve allowed Lee to retain. And had Lee won the third round, the scores would’ve been 116-112 and 115-113 for him and a 114-114 draw, giving him the majority decision.

Neither of those happened. Now Saunders, who hails from the United Kingdom, is hoping the win will get him fights with some of the 160-pound stars who fight in the United States, including champion Canelo Alvarez and the man Alvarez beat, Miguel Cotto. Those matches seem unlikely. So, too, is a fight with Gennady Golovkin at the moment, though it also wouldn’t be surprising if Saunders got a chance to face him before Golovkin’s planned fight with Alvarez in late 2016.

Lee had been hoping to face Golovkin or Daniel Jacobs next year. A fight with Jacobs is still a possibility given that Jacobs is from the New York borough of Brooklyn and Lee can attract the Irish population in that area.


Barthelemy Wins Lightweight Title in Scrap With Shafikov

Rances Barthelemy remained undefeated and won his second world title after taking a unanimous decision over Denis Shafikov, though it wasn’t as easy as the scorecards might suggest.

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Two judges had Barthelemy ahead 116-112, or eight rounds to four, while the third had it a ridiculously wide 119-109, meaning he saw Barthelemy winning 11 rounds and Shafikov just one.

That didn’t reflect the competitive action. Barthelemy had to work for the win. Shafikov deserves much of the credit for putting forth a determined effort, and Barthelemy deserves some of the blame for standing in front of Shafikov for so long instead of using his significant height advantage, footwork and head movement to avoid Shafikov’s shots.

For some time they stood in front of each other. Their guards were up but otherwise they were within range as each sent forth hard single punches and ripped short combinations to the body and head. It wasn’t a grueling pace, yet it was entertaining action.

Their chins and bodies held up to the punishment. The same couldn’t be said for Shafikov’s face. A cut on his right eyelid poured blood for much of the second half of the fight. Eventually he slowed and Barthelemy began to pick his spots more, establishing distance, dodging punches and landing well enough and often enough to win those rounds.

Barthelemy won a vacant belt at 135 pounds; he owned one at 130 pounds back in 2014 before moving up in weight. He’s also fought as high as 140 recently but now has good reason to remain at lightweight — so long as he can comfortably drain his lanky frame.

Shafikov suffered his second pro defeat; the other came against Miguel Vazquez, then still a lightweight titleholder, back in early 2014. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a third shot in the near future. It also wouldn’t be surprising if he gave that opponent the same kind of gut check he gave Barthelemy.

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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