This week's version of The Daily Sports Herald's Boxing Notebook takes a look at Andre Ward's return to the ring, and also examines retired fighter Paul Williams' first win as a trainer. Check out the latest news in the sweet science:
Paul Williams gets KO win -- as a trainer
Justin DeLoach (14-1, 8 KOs), of Augusta, Ga., who is trained by former world champion Paul Williams, registered a fourth-round knockout Friday night over undefeated super welterweight and local favorite Dillon “White Lightning” Cook (16-1, 6 KOs).
“I’m happy with my performance,’’ said DeLoach, who was the more active fighter, throwing nearly 100 more punches over the four rounds. “This was a great experience fighting a guy like this in his backyard. I enjoyed the crowd and their enthusiasm. It motivated me. I got a little lazy in parts of the second and third rounds, but I listened to my corner and picked it up on offense and got my punch count up and going again."
In the opening fight of the ShoBox telecast, DeLoach made Williams a winner in his training debut. With Williams looking on from his wheelchair in the corner, DeLoach, a winner of four in a row, dropped Cook with a devastating, counter-overhand right at 2:47 of the fourth that sent Cook awkwardly to the canvas in a knockout of the year candidate.
“Dillon was a good fighter who moved a lot," said DeLoach. "I know I have to do better cutting off the ring. He landed with a left a second before I landed that big right. This was a great win for all of us. I’m ready to do this again.’’
Williams described his relief after watching his pupil's victory.
“Look at me, look at my shirt,’’ said Williams, whose pro career came to a sudden and tragic end when he was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident in May 2012. "It feels like I was sweating worse than when I fought. I am very relieved to get this one out of the way. I’m very happy for Justin and Mr. Pete (Paul’s longtime manager and trainer and DeLoach’s assistant trainer, George Williams)."
Cook expressed his disappointment over the loss.
“I’m OK, all things considered,’’ said Cook. “He was a tough guy. I’ve never been knocked out before so I don’t exactly know how to act. I felt I was in the fight until I was caught. It’s disappointing, but this was a great learning experience for me. It can only help me in the long run.’’
Andre Ward makes triumphant light heavyweight debut
After enduring a long layoff caused by injuries and discord with his prior promoter, Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) finally returned to the ring against Cuba's Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs), earning a unanimous decision victory in his triumphant light heavyweight debut in front of his hometown crowd at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
The judges scored the fight 119-109, 117-109, and 117-108, all for Ward.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Roc Nation Sports
Although Ward showed a little rust and some vulnerability during the bout, he also demonstrated that his ring generalship, left jab, and overall hand speed will be a force to be reckoned with in the division.
Ward is eventually looking to take on the division's star, Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), who happened to be sitting ringside at the fight.
If Kovalev was paying any attention, he certainly would have learned that Andre Ward's power indeed does transfer up to this higher weight class, as Ward floored the larger Barrera in the third round with a clean left hook to the head.
Ward also demonstrated that his hand speed can be equally devastating, as he frequently got his jab off first in the exchanges, and repeatedly countered Barrera with left hooks. Ward's barrage left Barrera gun shy and unable to let his hands go throughout much of the night.
Finally, Ward also showed that he has sturdy defense and a light heavyweight chin, as he never was hurt, even when taking the occasional flush shot.
Despite the lopsided win, Ward acknowledged some rust and hesitancy with his surgically-repaired right shoulder, grading his performance a "B-." That is why he will most likely take one more tune-up bout before he decides to fight Kovalev.
Freddie Roach talks Pacquiao-Bradley III
Here is trainer Freddie Roach's latest Q and A on the upcoming Pacquiao-Bradley bout:
Q: Do you really think this is Pacquiao’s last fight? As a trainer, would you say Pacquiao has more quality fights in him? Is Pacquiao the best fighter you have ever trained? If not, who are the others?
A: “I personally don’t know if this will be Manny’s last fight but he is training like it’s going to be his last fight. Manny has achieved so much in his boxing career and if this is going to be his swan song I know he wants to go out blazing with a spectacular performance. He’s pouring everything into this training. If the opportunity for a knockout presents itself during the fight, he’s going to go for it. He knows how to close the show and he wants this show closed with fireworks. He wants to finish the book on his boxing career with a spectacular ending."
“I do think Manny has more quality fights in him. His power, speed, work ethic are still superior to most others."
“Manny is the greatest fighter I have ever worked with. I have never seen another fighter accomplish so much. Forget the raw talent and drive to win, Manny was a great student who never rested on his laurels. He was a sponge who was always willing to learn new things. He challenged me to teach him new things. He made me a better trainer. For me, it’s been an experience unique to Manny. I wish I had a million fighters with as much drive and a willingness to learn new things.”
A: “To put it simply, Bradley’s injuries were a big factor in both fights because they were caused by Manny during each fight. Boxing is the hurt business and when you get hit by Manny the force of his punches produce more damage than just to the area where the punches land. They physically rip you from your core. Frankly, I’m not convinced Bradley has yet to fully recover from his fight with Ruslan Provdnikov. And that’s not a knock. That fight was pure hell. I give him a lot of credit for surviving that battle as I do for winning it and continuing on as he has. He’s a tremendous athlete and a gutsy fighter.”
Q: How much of a concern is Pacquiao’s upcoming senate election in terms of being a distraction heading into this fight? How far can Pacquiao make it in politics in the Philippines?
A: “It has been no distraction at all. He is all business in the ring and the only thing we discuss is the fight with Bradley. If anything, he seems to be extra motivated to perform well in this fight. In boxing, Manny was an eight-division world champion. No one has ever done that. It’s like Joe DiMaggio’s record for hitting in 56 consecutive games. It will never be broken. In boxing, politics and life, Manny has shown us that anything is possible if you work hard and have faith. He has never been confined by limits.”
Q: As a trainer, how important are the first two fights in terms of breaking down tape when Bradley now has a different trainer that is asking to do things differently, especially against Pacquiao?
A: “Breaking down tape from the previous two fights is very important because I don’t feel Bradley has changed that much. Sure, we will make some adjustments for the changes his new trainer implemented in the last fight, but as soon as Manny lands some meaningful punches, Bradley will revert back to his old style and that’s what we have to be prepared for. The log in the ocean is going to end up being a log in the buzz saw.”
Pacquiao versus Bradley takes place Saturday, April 9, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and will be distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/ 6:00 p.m. PT.
Regis Prograis gets KO win
On a night of knockouts, unbeaten super lightweight Regis “Rougarou” Prograis (17-0, 14 KOs), of Houston, scored his third consecutive dominant victory on ShoBox: The New Generation, knocking out Mexico’s Aaron Herrera (21-5-1, 12 KOs) at 2:17 of the first round Friday in the main event on Showtime from Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla.
“I was prepared to go 10 full rounds, the last thing I was expecting was a first-round knockout,’’ said Prograis, who was making his 2016 debut. “I’m making hard fights look easy but they’re really not. It’s all the daily work in the gym all day every day that is paying off for me. Tonight was fun. I’m very satisfied."
Prograis, a 5-foot-9, 27-year-old originally from New Orleans, was fighting in his second consecutive ShoBox main event and second scheduled 10-rounder.
The aggressive-minded southpaw pounded Herrera’s body from the opening bell, as five of his six power punches were targeted to the Mexican’s midsection. A left hook to the body downed Herrera, who crumpled to the canvas and wasn’t able to beat the count.
“He just got me with a great shot, it was simple as that,’’ said Herrera, who making his second start in the United States. “There’s really not that much that I can say.’’
Prograis had a message for the other fighters of the division.
“I want all the fighters in my division to know one thing: I’m coming after all of you,’’ said Prograis.
The other scheduled eight-round bouts on the same card also ended early, as Ivan Baranchyk (10-0, 9 KOs), of Brooklyn, N.Y., registered a 21-second, first-round knockout over Nick Givhan (16-1-1, 10 KOs) in a super lightweight scrap, and Ukrainian welterweight Ivan Golub (16-0, 10 KOs, 5-0 in World Series of Boxing) scored a sixth-round TKO over Marlon Aguas (9-1, 6 KOs), of Ecuador.
“I can’t remember in 15 years of working ShoBox a show with such emphatic knockouts – and two of them being spectacular knockout of the year candidates,’’ said ShoBox expert analyst Steve Farhood.
The highly regarded Baranchyk – making his second eight-round start and second in a row on ShoBox – knocked out Givhan with a huge left hand with the first power punch of the fight. He required only two punches to finish the 17-fight veteran. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the quickest professional KO for the Belarus native. Baranchyk owns a three-second KO over Angel Figueroa from 2015.
“I’m very happy,’’ Baranchyk said. “I was expecting a much longer fight. I was focused on a full fight. But knockouts are good. I know fans like knockouts."
Givhan was shocked with the result.
"I'm good, but I am very, very disappointed,'' Givhan said. "This is the lowlight of my life. For me to get knocked out by someone I know I can beat is just the worst feeling. And there's nothing worse than for it to happen on national television. No one expects 20-second fights. I just got caught, that's all.''
Golub, a former standout amateur from Ukraine, had to rally from the first knockdown of his career.
“This was a little tougher than I expected,’’ he said. “But it’s all about learning. I had to go through some adversity to win. You don’t know adversity until it hits you in the face.”
Golub was the more active fighter against the awkward Aguas, who was at his best when matters turned ugly. In a bizarre second round, southpaw Golub scored a questionable knockdown as Aguas hit the canvas while clinching and off-balance. Aguas bounced back seconds later to knock down Golub with a short right, sending the Ukrainian to the canvas for the first time in his career.
“I was surprised that I got knocked down, but he caught me off-balance,’’ Golub said. “Overall, I am very happy with my performance.”
Golub resumed control after the second and a series of combinations in the sixth sent a gassed Aguas falling back through the ropes in the closing seconds of the round. Aguas somehow rose to his feet to beat the count, but his trainer quickly waved off the bout when the Ecuadorian returned to the corner.
Aguas said an injury, not fatigue, was the reason his corner stopped the fight at the end of the sixth.
“I hurt my right bicep in the fifth round,’’ Aguas said. “That’s the reason we stopped it. I wasn’t that tired.”
Antonio Orozco defeats Miguel Acosta
Contender Antonio Orozco (24-0, 16 KOs) defeated former WBA Super Lightweight World Champion Miguel Acosta (29-9-2, 39 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round super welterweight fight at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
"We take every fight seriously," said Antonio Orozco. "We knew that Acosta is a former world champion, and we made sure to be as prepared as possible. Fortunately, I was able to go in there and execute my game plan and ended the fight early. I want to fight a few more times this year and am ready to take on the best in the division. I am ready for the title shot."
Orozco started strong with two solid left hooks that sent Acosta to the canvas twice in the first round. A non-responsive Acosta necessitated that the doctor call off the fight, awarding Orozco a victory at the 1:54 mark.
"I knew Orozco was an aggressive fighter, and I felt very prepared for this fight," said Miguel Acosta. "But I hesitated. I had a moment of doubt in the ring and that is where he got me. The left hook really stung me, but I got up because I thought I would have time to recover. Orozco came at me more aggressively, and I just couldn't continue."
In the televised co-main event of the evening, Andrew Cancio (17-3-2, 13 KOs) made his debut as a Golden Boy Promotions fighter in a 10-round featherweight fight against former two division world champion Hugo Cazares (40-9-2, 27 KOs).
"He was stronger than we anticipated," said Hugo Cazares. "He surprised me with his aggressiveness, but I am not going to make that mistake twice. I am going to come back next time ready and not underestimate any fighter."
Cancio ambushed Cazares on the ropes and landed effective body shots in the first round. Cancio continued to dominate the fight as he knocked down Cazares in the third round. Cazares made the count and fought off Cancio throughout the exciting round. However at the 2:49 mark, Cazares' corner call off the fight giving Cancio another technical knockout victory.
"I felt very strong in the ring tonight," said Andrew Cancio. "After the long lay-off when I faced Rene Alvarado I felt rusty so I made sure to be very prepared against a former two-time world champion. I trained very hard for 10 weeks and it paid off. I was able to come back in the ring and show my strength. I am ready for the top of the featherweight division and ready for a re-match with Ronny Rios. I will talk to my manager and promoter and see what's next. This is going to be an exciting year for me, and I can't wait."
Roy Jones Promotions to put on April 16 card in Las Vegas
Roy Jones Jr. (RJJ) Boxing Promotions will be the licensed promoter of record for the 2016 "Knockout Night at the D" boxing series to be held outdoors at the D Las Vegas and the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Saturday, April 16th (8 p.m. PT / 11 p.m. ET), live on CBS Sports Network.
"Anytime I have the opportunity to showcase my fighters in Las Vegas and put on a show is a win-win for me and Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions," commented Roy Jones Jr., Co-Founder of RJJ. "Las Vegas has helped make my career what it is today; it feels like home to me. 'Knockout Night at the D' is going to be a spectacular night for boxing and the fans. Downtown Las Vegas Event Center is an outstanding venue for boxing fans . . . there isn't a bad seat in the house!"
The main event will feature a 10-round welterweight fight between Steve Claggett and Chris Van Heerden.
Claggett (23-3-1, 16 KOs), 26, is the reigning Canadian Professional Boxing Council and Canadian welterweight champion. As an amateur in Calgary, he captured four Alberta Championships and three Golden Gloves titles, all prior to his 18th birthday.
South African-native Van Heerden (23-1-1, 12 KOs), fighting out of Santa Monica, is a former International Boxing Organization (IBO) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) welterweight champion.
The 8-round co-feature matches undefeated Neeco Macias (11-0, 4 KOs) against Limberth Ponce, Jr. (10-2, 8 KOs). Unbeaten Baltimore welterweight prospect Malik Hawkins (6-0, 5 KOs) also is scheduled to fight an opponent to be determined in a 4-round bout.
The remainder of the undercard features promising Las Vegas-based prospects in four-round bouts: Welterweight Jeremy Nichols (2-0, 2 KOs), junior featherweight Sal Perez (2-0), and bantamweight Sergio Lopez (2-3, 1 KO). Nichols gained invaluable experience as a sparring partner for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for his mega-fight versus Manny Pacquiao.
"Drummer Boy" Molina aiming for another title shot
Texas heavyweight Eric "Drummer Boy" Molina had his moments against star Deontay Wilder, but ultimately fell short in his bid to become the first Mexican-American world heavyweight champion.
The 6' 4", 240-pound Molina has a unique opportunity on April 2 to get back in position to challenge for the world title again when he faces two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek in their 12-round pay-per-view showdown for the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) Inter-Continental heavyweight title.
The upset-minded Molina (24-3, 18 KOs) has traveled to Poland on a mission to knock off Poland's heavy favorite Adamek (50-4, 30 KOs).
Molina wobbled Wilder in the third round of a losing match via a left hook, followed by a right cross.
This time he is looking to finish off his opponent, not just stun him.
"I'm at the point in my career where my back is against the wall," the 34-year-old Molina said. "All I've ever known to do is bounce back and April 2nd I intend to do just that. My dream of becoming the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion continues April 2nd in Poland."
During his eight-year professional career, Molina has defeated Tony Grano for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) championship, Warren Browning for the vacant WBC USNBC title, and Gabriel Holguin for the vacant WBC Latino crown.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services