By Michael Montero, Ringside
In the opening bout of Showtime’s big quadruple header from the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, undefeated Leo “Terremoto” Santa Cruz won the vacant IBF bantamweight title via unanimous decision over Vusi “Marvelous” Malinga.
Both fighters got off to a quick start, throwing punches with bad intentions from bell to bell. Santa Cruz, now 20-0-1 (11 KOs), was definitely the crowd favorite, being from Lincoln Heights, California. He utilized a looping right hand around Malinga’s high guard to score, as well as a thudding left hook to the body that landed almost at will. Malinga, now 20-4 (12 Kos), had his moments and never stopped coming forward, but his punches didn’t seem to have the same effect. On the contrary, you could hear Santa Cruz’s shots land from any seat in the house.
Malinga, of Johannesburg, South Africa, showed a ton of heart and toughness as he absorbed hard body blows throughout. His face was swollen and bruised but he was still swinging away as the final bell rang. But in the end it wasn’t enough as the California kid took it on the cards. The judges saw the bout 119-109 and 120-108, twice. The future is bright for young Santa Cruz.
In the second bout of tonight’s Showtime card, New Mexico’s Austin “No Doubt” Trout defended his WBA super welterweight title against Delvin “El Peligro” Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic, now living in Connecticut. Trout managed to remain an undefeated titlist, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire.
This fight started slowly, with both men doing little more than circling and feinting over the first few rounds. Things did pick up toward the middle of the fight, but neither man seemed to sit down on their punches. The crowd booed during the many lulls, but did show support during the few exchanges that took place. Rodriguez, 26-6-3 (14 KOs), stalked forward and tried to make the fight, while Trout backed up and circled away. When they did exchange, it was the southpaw Trout who got the better of it. The best action took place in the championship rounds as both men picked up the pace and started punching harder, yet neither fully committed to trying to do serious damage.
Trout seemed to be content with doing just enough to win each round. None the less, he put in a workmanlike performance and got the job done. The 154 pound titlist, now 25-0 (14KOs), won the fight easily with scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 120-108. There are rumors that Trout is on the shortlist for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in his upcoming PPV headliner this September. While he showed the ability to avoid punches tonight, Trout didn’t show the type of offense one would think he’d need to keep Canelo off of him. Still, he is highly skilled and should make for an interesting matchup should he get the call to face fellow undefeated 154 titlist Alvarez.
In tonight’s co-feature, Brooklyn’s Peter Quillin outworked former pound for pound elite Ronald “Winky” Wright in a solid performance. Quillin, now 27-0 (20 KOs), went from prospect to contender as he passed the toughest test of his professional career. This was an entertaining fight that displayed a lot of skill, will and heart.
Quillin showed the better hand speed and looped his punches around Winky’s high guard early on, but the veteran and former champ stalked forward, landing his own shots. Things heated up in the sixth as Wright had Quillin against the ropes and landed several flush jabs, snapping his opponent’s head back. The sentimental crowd erupted in support of Winky. Suddenly Quillin erupted, darting forward and connecting with a flush right hand that dropped Wright to the canvas. It was a thrilling sequence.
As the fight wore on, the man they call “Kid Chocolate” seemed to grow more confident and really sit down on his punches. Wright would still have his moments, occasionally displaying the skills that once made him one of the top pound for pound fighters in the sport, but it wasn’t often enough. Quillin’s punches were harder, crisper and more explosive. Whether it was the left hook or the straight right, his shots seemed to do more damage throughout. Toward the end of the eighth Quillin caught Wright with a perfect uppercut on the inside and had him buzzed. As always, Winky showed tremendous heart, never once backing up. In fact he came back in the ninth to do his best work of the fight, unanimously winning the round.
After ten rounds of action, Wright’s face was swollen and bruised but he was still moving forward like a warrior. Both men traded until the final bell and the crowd enthusiastically cheered their performances. The judges saw the bout for Quillin with the scores of 97-92 and 98-91 twice. He definitely proved that he is a force to be reckoned with and maybe one or two fights away from being ready to seriously challenge middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez. Winky Wright showed us that he’s still a tough night out for anybody out there, but probably better suited at junior middleweight.
After the fight Kid Chocolate and team walked around the ring tossing chocolates into the crowd. They came around to press row and threw a few my way; naturally I caught one. Turns out they were little chocolate gloves with the fighter’s site, kidchocolate.com, written on them. Not only is this kid a damn good fighter, he’s a smart promoter too.
At the culmination of a terrific night of boxing in southern California, Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver squared off against Lateef “Power” Kayode in tonight’s main event. Could the old southpaw veteran turn back the clock once more and defend his IBO cruiserweight title, or would youth be served for the undefeated prospect? The old champ versus the young up and comer, the story is as old as the sport of boxing itself.
Over the first few rounds Tarver tried to use his cagey veteran skill set to counterpunch his stronger opponent. But Kayode, originally from Nigeria but now living in Los Angeles, seemed to get the better of the exchanges. There were lulls in the early going that drew boos from the crowd. Kayode, now training with Freddie Roach at the famous Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, played to the crowd and threw flurries in response to the boos, but Tarver wouldn’t engage. It was obvious he wanted to potshot from the outside and tie up when his opponent got close. The Tampa, Florida native seemed content on doing just enough to steal rounds, the crowd be damned.
Things began to heat up in the sixth round as Tarver landed several hard punches that got Kayode’s attention. With every combo the veteran landed, the youngster would come back with his own shots. Both men punched each other after the bell – on purpose. Frustration was setting in, and a fight was finally starting to break out. Tarver began landing the lead left in the seventh round and appeared to buzz Kayode at one point as he briefly lost his balance. A replay showed that their feet got tangled up but none the less the Nigerian felt a need to respond, charging forward with numerous unanswered body shots to Tarver’s belly.
Round after round, Tarver’s game plan started to pay off as he landed stiff counter shots and frustrated his lesser experienced opponent. The strategy that had the crowd frustrated in the early rounds now had them cheering. You could see Tarver thinking in there, making slight adjustments and never losing focus. Once he found a home for the left hand he began to dominate in spots and soon it was Tarver stalking while Kayode backed up, appearing confused. Again in the eighth he landed a hard left hand that wobbled Kayode, and this time it had nothing to do with feet being tangled. Once more in the ninth Tarver landed a straight left that buckled Kayode’s legs and pushed him into the ropes. The fight, which started very slowly, was getting better and better. A noticeable welt had formed under Tarver’s left eye and both men were landing punches that sent sweat flying into press row.
Things slowed down over the championship rounds, as it appeared that Tarver believed he was ahead and wanted to play it safe. As most experts predicted, the fight went to the cards and the decision was announced to the crowd by Jimmy Lennon Jr. The scores came back 115-113 Tarver, 115-113 Kayode, and a third score of 114-114. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a split draw!
Kayode threw 513 total punches, landing 105; whereas Tarver threw 484 and landed 99. If punch stats are any indication, this was indeed a very close fight. I felt that Kayode won the early rounds, Tarver took over in the middle of the fight, and Kayode closed it out strong. Nobody likes a draw, but in this case it’s certainly understandable. Even though this match started out slow, it turned out to be very entertaining.
So what’s next for these two? Tarver, now 29-6-1 (20 KOs), says he wants to take on one of the Klitschko brothers at heavyweight but that would probably be disaster. He just doesn’t have enough size or power to mess with the Ukrainian giants. Kayode is still undefeated at 18-0-1 (14 KOs) and just learned an awful lot over twelve rounds with a crafty veteran; he should come back from this a better fighter.
Showtime deserves a lot of props for televising a quadruple header. This was a great card for boxing fans and the crowd here at the Home Depot Center certainly got their money’s worth. Questions, comments, hate mail – you know what to do: [email protected]