BOXING FEATURED

Porter Wins Close Fight with Ugas; Bivol and Hooker Also Defend Titles

By David Greisman

 

Close Victory Over Yordenis Ugas Preserves Shawn Porter’s Future Plans

 

Twice in the span of two days, Shawn Porter was fortunate to hold on to his world title.

On Friday at the weigh-in, Porter needed to strip naked — and cut his hair — in order to make the 147-pound limit. That meant he could enter the ring on Saturday night with his title belt.

 

And then on Saturday night, Porter was able to leave the ring with his title after getting the edge from two of the three judges in an otherwise close bout with Yordenis Ugas.

That’s incredibly important. Porter needs that belt in order to help make fights with the other top welterweights more of a possibility. Had he come in overweight on Friday and lost the belt on the scales, it would have been left vacant even if he’d beaten Ugas.

It’s still debatable whether he truly beat Ugas. Then again, it’s also debatable whether Ugas truly beat Porter.

The fight was just that close. One judge had it 117-111 for Ugas, giving him nine rounds and Porter three. But the other two judges saw it for Porter, seeing it 116-112 (eight rounds to four) and 115-113 (seven rounds to five).

The three judges only agreed unanimously on two rounds, seeing Round 4 for Ugas and Round 9 for Porter.

But the action was so close that even the two judges who saw it for Porter — who were apart by just one point with their final tallies — only agreed on how they saw five of the rounds.

There was a lot of standing and staring, more feinting than fighting, more moving o feet at times than moving of hands. Porter opted to box for much of the fight. Ugas preferred to counter rather than apply pressure. Each still had good moments. But there was little truly clearly separating one fighter from the other.

“We wanted to outbox him and then eventually turn it on and press him, but my dad [trainer Kenny Porter] did not see a point doing that tonight,” Porter said afterward. “Not that we wanted to fight safe, but that was the smartest way to fight.”

Porter has often been a relentless pressure fighter, though he’s also shown good boxing ability in the past. With the taller, longer Ugas looking to counter, Porter’s team thought it best to box, to score and then get out, and to keep Ugas from having opportunities to land.

 

“I’m a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to get to the body as much as we had planned. But … you do what’s working,” Porter said. “What was working tonight was the foot movement. It wasn’t allowing Ugas to get close to me. It made him continue to reset. There were a lot of times where he would reset where I would just be able to pop the jab and continue to move. I think we fought a good, smart fight tonight.”

Ugas thought he won and believes he was robbed. It’s hard to call a close fight like this a robbery, but if there’s one round that should anger him in particular, it’s Round 12.

That round seemed to clearly belong to Ugas. Yet judge Max DeLuca gave it to Porter. Had he scored it for Ugas, the fight would’ve been a draw on DeLuca’s scorecard — and a split draw for the final result.

And then there’s the matter of an Ugas right hand that landed behind Porter’s head and seemed to put Porter down. Referee Jack Reiss ruled it a slip. Had it been ruled a knockdown, Ugas would’ve won the round 10-8 and would’ve won the fight by split decision.

 

Instead, it’s Porter who came out victorious and is now 30-2-1 with 17 knockouts. He’ll be keeping a close eye on this coming Saturday’s fight between welterweight titleholder Errol Spence and rising lightweight Mikey Garcia. And then there are potential bouts with promotional stablemates Keith Thurman and Manny Pacquiao.

Ugas wants a rematch. He’s now 23-4 with 11 KOs, losing for the first time since 2014. Ugas had been on quite a run for the past several years after moving up from 140 to 147, winning eight straight and taking out the likes of unbeaten prospects Jamal James and Bryant Perrella, and defeating capable measuring stick opponents in Thomas Dulorme and Ray Robinson.

Ugas hung in there with Porter. If he doesn’t get a rematch, then perhaps his team can get him a fight with the winner of April’s bout between Danny Garcia and Adrian Granados.

 

Dmitry Bivol Both Dominates Joe Smith and Survives Him

 

That headline may seem to contradict itself, though it’s true when you think about it.

 

Light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol dominated Joe Smith for nearly all of their 12-round fight, but those rare moments when Bivol wasn’t in control were moments that he was fortunate to make it through.

Smith rocked Bivol twice. That was about it for the vaunted power-puncher from Long Island. Bivol’s class and boxing skill otherwise dictated the action. The talented technician from Russia defended his world title with a wide unanimous decision victory.

Two judges scored it 119-109, or 11 rounds to Bivol and just one for Smith. The other judge had it 118-110, or 10 rounds to two.

 

Bivol worked behind his jab from the beginning, establishing distance between himself and Smith, moving away with ease when Smith approached with his slower, wider shots, and blocking punches when Smith was able to get closer. Bivol looked for opportunities to land counters but also was able to flurry with extended combinations, confident that he could land in volume and still avoid the potential consequences of remaining in the danger zone.

Through three rounds, Smith had been credited with landing just seven punches out of 78 thrown, according to CompuBox. Bivol, in contrast, had scored with 46 blows.

Smith didn’t need to land many, though. He just needed to land something good.

 

That became evident when Smith looped an overhand right to the side of Bivol’s head about a minute into the fourth round. It landed with enough oomph that Bivol decided to hold Smith for a brief moment. He was otherwise fine. Smith thought he’d hurt Bivol and tried to capitalize, only for Bivol to block and dodge throughout what proved to be an ineffective onslaught.

Bivol continued to win more rounds, limiting Smith’s opportunities to land. He was able to rock Smith as well, hurting him with a left hook in Round 7. Entering the eighth, Smith had landed just 19 of 202 punches. Bivol had landed nearly 100 more, going 117 of 373. Bivol’s success continued; he had Smith backing up after a left hook and a right hand later in the round.

Smith was clearly getting frustrated, to the point that he picked Bivol up in a clinch in Round 9 and threw him to the canvas.

Yet he soon found a more legitimate way to hurt Bivol.

 

In the final seconds of Round 10, Smith dropped his left shoulder and launched an overhand right. Bivol turned to try to avoid it, only to take the punch on the side of his head. The bell rang, and his bell was rung. Bivol walked unsteadily to his corner, grabbing the top rope to guide his return.

Bivol was fortunate that the shot came when it came. He had about a minute to rest without needing to deal with Smith. Things could’ve been quite different had the punch landed earlier in the round.

Bivol still needed some time to recover in Round 11, tying up Smith early after dodging a punch. Smith was emboldened and in pursuit, looking to land another big one, hoping for the Hail Mary to pull out the victory. But it never came. Bivol got his legs back. And as the fight came to an end, it was Bivol hammering away at Smith.

Smith was 39 of 395 on the night, throwing only 33 punches per round, landing just one for very 10 he attempted. Bivol outworked and outlanded him, going 208 of 714.

Bivol is now 16-0 with 11 KOs. He’s in a talented division, though there’s a question of whether he’ll be able to test that talent against the other top-tier titleholders and contenders. Bivol is featured on the DAZN streaming network. The three other 175-pounders with belts — Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Sergey Kovalev —— are on ESPN, as is Eleider Alvarez. And then there are the contenders affiliated with PBC (which is featured on FOX and Showtime), including Marcus Browne and Badou Jack.

That’s perhaps one reason why Bivol has spoken of potentially dropping down to the super middleweight division. That, and the fact that Bivol is on the smaller end for a light heavyweight; he said he was able to eat breakfast on the morning of his weigh-in rather than be concerned with draining himself to make 175.

Competing at 168 could open the door to fights with two of DAZN’s biggest stars: Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Canelo is the middleweight champion, though he dipped his toes in the water at super middleweight last year when he destroyed Rocky Fielding.

As for Smith, he is now 24-3 with 20 KOs. He’s limited but fun. There’s no need to write him off when there are fights worth making. Put him in with Callum Johnson, whose war with Beterbiev last October was a thriller.

Depleted Maurice Hooker Still Wins Wide Decision Over Mikkel LesPierre

 

It was a hard weight cut for Maurice Hooker, not that it seems like it should ever be easy for a muscular 5-foot-11 man to squeeze down to 140 pounds. But this time, Hooker was said to be struggling to make junior welterweight in the final days. He had to get on the scale four times before finally making 140.

So you wouldn’t have been wrong to expect that Hooker would be depleted and potentially disadvantaged while defending his world title against unbeaten prospect Mikkel LesPierre.

Except even a version of Hooker who wasn’t at his best still proved to be too much for LesPierre to handle.

Hooker scored with right hands throughout the fight, began mixing in hard shots downstairs, dropped LesPierre with a big left hook to the body in Round 9, threw more and landed more en route to a wide unanimous decision victory.

Hooker went from landing single right hands in the first round to turning them into an extended combo in the second and then once again in the third. Hooker looked to have scored a knockdown in Round 5 off a right hook, though the fact that LesPierre missed with a punch on the way to the canvas led the referee to instead rule that LesPierre had slipped.

 

LesPierre was game and showed some skill in the ring, yet he wasn’t doing enough to dissuade Hooker. He wasn’t landing more. He definitely didn’t have anywhere near as much power. And he wasn’t making Hooker miss as much as he needed to.

Hooker sent LesPierre down in the ninth with a body shot. LesPierre got up at the count of nine, taking as much time as he could to recover. LesPierre tried to battle back with a flurry as the round came to an end, showing that he wasn’t quite done, though Hooker avoided or blocked much of it.

The rest of the fight seemed more like a sparring match. LesPierre had to know he was behind, but he was also aware that he couldn’t do anything to turn the fight around. He was at least able to make it to the final bell.

 

One judge had it a shutout, 120-107, or 12 rounds to zero with an extra point deducted from LesPierre for the knockdown. The other judges had Hooker ahead by a slightly smaller margin, 119-109 (11 rounds to one) and 118-110 (10 rounds to two).

 

Hooker is now 26-0-3 with 17 KOs. Assuming he can still make 140 — a conversation that’ll need to take place with his trainer and nutritionist — then Hooker will likely face unbeaten contender Jack Catterall next.

 

LesPierre is now 21-1-1 with 10 KOs.

 

 

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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