The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Shawn Porter Wins Ugly Title Eliminator, Amanda Serrano Makes Exquisite History in Brooklyn

Shawn Porter Wins Ugly Title Eliminator, Amanda Serrano Makes Exquisite History in Brooklyn

Ringside for a night of action at the Barclays
Berto and Porter face off

Unbeknownst to anyone outside the confines of the Barclays Center until the pronouncement was made at center ring in between Showtime boxing broadcasts, April 22, 2017 was not only Earth Day but Daniel Jacobs Day. Just over one month removed from his disputed loss to Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight fan favorite, with son Nathaniel by his side, was presented with a copy of the official proclamation by Barclays’ CEO of Sports and Entertainment Brett Yormark and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who remarked that they were so honoring Jacobs for having “turned pain into purpose” through both his survival of bone cancer and his charitable endeavors. Danny told the appreciative masses that he wished the GGG fight had been held at Barclays so that he could have gotten the same kind of crowd support then that he was right now but promised that “the best is yet to come” and to anticipate a triumphant return this autumn.

Saturday was overcast and cool, breezy and intermittently drizzly. Not ideal conditions, I suspect, for Earth Day celebrants who gathered in and around Manhattan for rallies, street fairs, and outdoor concerts. Nonetheless, the weather seemed not to dampen their spirits to the extent that it did their colorful attire and they turned out in great numbers regardless. Which meant that I had many more obstacles than normal to navigate either through or around on my walk from Penn Station to Brooklyn after arriving by train from Huntington via my favorite route: up 5th Ave. to do the old 23 Skidoo past the Flatiron Building (for which that term was coined) where it splits into Broadway, giving a tip of the cap to the William Henry Seward statue at the northeast entrance to Madison Square Park, then through Union Square Park to pass beneath the bronzed likeness of Abraham Lincoln on my way to an always necessary stop-off at the world famous, four-floor Strand bookstore (for the books as well as the bathroom) before picking up a coffee for my leisurely stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge which never loses its charm for me no matter how many crossings I’ve made. At least the rain cut down on the typically thick pedestrian traffic, only now I found myself having to dodge opened umbrellas rather than extended selfie sticks. All because I was making my way towards a night of prizefights at the Barclays Center and, though I didn’t know it then, commemorating Daniel Jacobs Day.

Kenny Robles, a welterweight fighting out of Staten Island, opened the proceedings by competing in his second professional contest against a familiar face, that of Latorie Woodberry, whom he had defeated by unanimous decision at Barclays back in January on the Badou Jack/James Degale undercard. Removing any shred of doubt left after their first encounter, Robles made short work of Woodberry with a first-round TKO. Even though only the soles of his feet ever came into contact with the canvas, Woodberry was defenseless while weathering a sustained attack at the time of the stoppage at 1:53.

Far Rockaway’s Joseph Williams is looking to make some noise in the already voluminous light-heavyweight division. Williams was expected to get in some quality rounds last night opposite 19-12-1 Felipe Romero, who had suffered notable losses to Steve Cunningham, still undefeated prospects Egor Mekhontsev and David Benavidez, Oleksandr Usyk (in the Ukrainian’s pro debut), and Krzysztof Glowacki. A series of thudding lefts to the body forced Romero to hold on for dear life and the Mexican’s tendency to leave his right hand low left him vulnerable to the left hooks of Williams, which he loaded up with the intention to break bones each time they were thrown.

Although this sort of effort meant that Williams was often not as busy as he could have been, ultimately his power nullified his lack of frequency. The end came, for all intents and purposes, with a right hook unloosed by Williams in the seventh round that backed Romero into a corner where he absorbed two more for good measure before referee Benjy Esteves Jr. intervened to wave the fight off. Williams remains unbeaten with 8 of his 12 victories now coming by way of knockout.

Welterweights ruled the roost on this evening and next up was Julian Sosa who resides in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. He brought along a lively cheering section for some audience participation as he dropped Emmanuel Valadez midway through the opening round with a counter left hook, then staggered him with an overhand right. That same punch would bring about Emmanuel’s demise in the third of six scheduled rounds, depositing him onto the canvas in his own corner for a technical knockout. Sosa has yet to taste defeat, improving to 8-0-1.

In what was very possibly the most action-packed fight of the night, Mexico’s Jose Miguel Borrego had his hands full with fellow super-lightweight John ‘Bang Bang’ Delperdang whose moniker is truly representative of his reputation. A late replacement for Jonathan Alonso, Delperdang was coming off of an unsuccessful bid for the vacant UBF World Lightweight Title against Henry Lundy last December. True to his name, ‘Bang Bang’ is happiest, not to mention most successful, when he can turn a boxing match into a phone booth brawl.

His attempts to do this against Borrego were thwarted early on by Jose’s left jab which kept Delperdang at arm’s length from where he could snap off quick combinations, beautifully mixing up left leads, uppercuts, body shots, and right hooks. Borrego also seemed to get the better of the infighting exchanges when ‘Bang ‘Bang’ could close the distance, staggering him on several occasions until Delperdang’s body blows and right hooks against the ropes caused Borrego to grab him in a desperation headlock.

The fourth round was a three-minute long donnybrook with continual momentum shifts as Borrego’s left uppercuts and Delperdang’s left hooks turned the tide at any given moment. The ringside physician was called upon to permit ‘Bang Bang’ to keep banging away in the seventh, an ominous sign as it turned out as, with blood streaming from both nostrils and his right eye swollen shut, Delperdang was stopped by a monstrous Borrego uppercut and left hook while backed in a precarious situation against the ring strands. Proving himself greater than the tough test administered by Delperdang, the knockout was the eleventh for Borrego in twelve successful outings.

Disappointed as I was not to get to see Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz, whose injured hand prevented him from fulfilling his obligation to fight Derric Rossy who lives in nearby Medford here on Long Island, it opened up the headlining slot on the Showtime Extreme telecast to be filled by Amanda Serrano who had done so this past January, as well. The exciting knockout artist abandoned the WBO Super-Bantamweight belt she won over Alexandra Lazar last October in the first women’s bout to be the featured attraction on a card in Serrano’s native Puerto Rico. She had to drop down to 118 pounds and challenge for the organization’s vacant Bantamweight championship. If successful, her victory would establish Amanda, known as ‘The Real Deal’ for very good reason, as the first female fighter to win world titles in five weight divisions, not to mention the first Puerto Rican boxer of either gender, breaking the record of her self-proclaimed hero Miguel Cotto who has earned four in his career.

Serrano’s contracted adversary at Barclays for Saturday was Dahiana Santana, a former IBF World Featherweight Champion hailing from the Dominican Republic who had also recently laid claim to an interim version of the WBA title. Although Santana tipped the scales at the super-bantamweight limit of 122 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, Team Serrano elected to disregard the discrepancy and the WBO likewise consented to forge ahead with its bantamweight belt on the line. Serrano looked resplendent in her pink robe with trunks and gloves to match, entering the ring waving handheld Puerto Rican flags and accompanied by her promoter Lou DiBella and, as always, her sister Cindy, the current custodian of Amanda’s former WBO Featherweight Title which she defends against Paola Torres in Puerto Rico on May 13.

Determined not to make an easy target of herself, Santana set off on an extended walkabout to all points of the ring near and far other than any parcel of canvas presently occupied by the always dangerous Serrano. Amanda capitalized on a wild miss of an intended looping right hook to lunge forward with a short-lived attack before being tied up by Santana, which would become another frustratingly recurring theme. She was able to free herself from her challenger’s clutches in the second round to dig to the body and land two nice right hooks, one just a little too low on Dahiana’s jawline and the other high up on her forehead.

Now able to cut the ring off more effectively in round three, Amanda let fly with flurries of side-arm punches and uppercuts on the crouching Santana who would repeatedly pop up and tie up but did manage to land a good check hook in the fourth. Visibly winded and distressed by Serrano’s body blows, Santana was given clearance to continue by doctor’s orders prior to the beginning of round five, though she showed little of her previous movement and absorbed a good deal more punishment. A slight delay to the onset of the sixth round was caused when Santana entered the ring with no mouthpiece, returning to her corner while her seconds scrounged around for her gumshield in an obvious stalling tactic.

This supplementary period of oxygen intake allowed Dahiana to resume darting around all four corners of the squared circle but it was a sprint toward annihilation when, starting in round seven, a fistfight broke out at the track meet. The NYSAC appointed physician sent Dahiana out to meet her doom in the eighth when Serrano crashed home a left hook to the side of her head followed by a right uppercut. The accumulation of punches achieved their desired effect and Benjy Esteves Jr. stepped between the two women warriors to halt the onslaught.

“It means the world to me,” an understandably emotional Amanda Serrano exclaimed during her post-fight interview. “I’m so proud to be Puerto Rican. I could retire today and be the happiest woman alive,” she added along with the disclaimer that she thankfully has no intention of calling it quits anytime soon.

The swing bout featured Brooklyn’s Richardson Hitchins who was returning to Barclays after making his successful professional debut there with a first-round TKO of Mario Perez in a preliminary matchup prior to the welterweight title unification between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia on March 4. Failing to qualify for the U.S. boxing squad, Hitchins appeared in the 2016 Olympics nonetheless as a representative of his parents’ homeland of Haiti though he would be eliminated by Gary Antuanne Russell in the opening round. Fighting under the Money Mayweather promotional banner, Hitchins displayed nice quick hands, a stiff left jab and good right hook, when he decided to use them which, Saturday night anyway, wasn’t until late in each of the four rounds. Regardless, it was more than enough to earn him the unanimous decision over the now 2-3-1 Alexander Picot for his second consecutive victory.

Jermell Charlo made the first successful defense of his WBC Super-Welterweight Title in the co-main event against Charles Hatley who had become the mandatory challenger by virtue of an 11th round TKO of the WBC Silver belt-holder Anthony Mundine in November 2015. Despite having Don King as his booster, Hatley made only one in-ring appearance in 2016, an embarrassing intrusion that led to an admittedly humorous faux pas. Hatley jumped between the ropes to get in the face of Jermall Charlo who had just turned back the challenge of Austin Trout for his own IBF Super-Welterweight Title on a Premier Boxing Champions broadcast, oblivious to the fact that he was mouthing off to the wrong Charlo sibling. Jermell, incidentally, knocked out Julian Jackson’s son John to claim the vacant WBC belt on the same show.

His blundering case of mistaken identity notwithstanding, Hatley probably left Brooklyn Saturday night wishing he had been in the ring with anyone whose last name was not Charlo. Jermell controlled the fight following a humdrum first-round feeling out process. With time winding down in the second round, Charlo dropped Hatley with an overhand right to the temple which came hot on the heels of a left-hand lead. Similar lightning-quick combinations continued to rattle Hatley’s cage and the champion doubled up his right in the fifth, thrown first from an overhand position then brought back around for an uppercut. A brutal Charlo right cross landed over Hatley’s left as the challenger let loose with a near miss, resulting in a one-punch coup de grace to rival that of Mikey Garcia’s demolition of Dejan Zlaticanin as an early candidate for KO of the Year.

Some anxious moments followed as it took what felt like several minutes for Hatley, who had toppled beneath the bottom rope and halfway onto the ring apron where the photographers were positioned, to be revived and sit upright under his own power. Jermell has his sights set on unification of the super-welterweight division which means going after Jarrett Hurd, who took possession of his brother Jermall’s vacated IBF title belt with a TKO over Tony Harrison in February.

With welterweight classmates Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr. both observing from ringside, Shawn Porter and Andre Berto engaged in a title eliminator which would determine Thurman’s WBC mandated challenger. Almost completely devoid of scientific technique, this exhibition was by no means a thing of beauty unless your specific tastes for whatever reason tend toward headbutts, clinching and holding, rabbit punches, and multiple doctor visits. Both combatants would shed blood due to numerous head clashes before all was said and done.

Berto was put on his backside in round two courtesy of a right-hand counter from Porter and Andre would find himself pinned against the ropes time and again by a recklessly bum rushing ‘Showtime’ where Berto would land an occasional uppercut amidst a volley of hellfire from Porter who maintained the decided advantage in such situations. Berto slipped to the mat after ripping a right uppercut and whiffing with a follow-up left hook, his footing becoming increasingly unstable.

Landing an overhand left that separated Berto from his equilibrium, a blood-smeared Porter proceeded to pound his distressed foe into and nearly through the ropes three times in the ninth round before Mark Nelson, the unenviable third man in the ring, performed the merciful act of halting the barbarity. No boxer is under any obligation to win pretty, just to win. With that in mind, Shawn Porter was not only characteristically humble but apologetic in victory, accepting his share of responsibility for the graceless nature of the fight. As discombobulated as he was, Berto hadn’t heard Shawn’s expressions of regret but, much to his credit, took no exception to the roughhousing as he had been just as willing a participant.

Keith Thurman entered the fray to congratulate Porter and make known that he is eager to sit down and negotiate the rematch Shawn had just earned. Of course, he also wished Errol Spence Jr. well in his upcoming attempt to bring the IBF title that Kell Brook won from Porter back to the United States with the not so subtle implication that a future get together with Spence is also on his radar. Clearly as worse for wear as Berto, Shawn Porter was asked his opinion of what Thurman had just stated. “He just said a whole bunch of words,” Porter confessed with a laugh, “and I didn’t understand them.”

Heavy is the cost to those who grasp for immortality through the fog of war. For many of us, every day consists of scraping for survival among the mediocre or uninspired, against the oppression of the powers that be or our own self-interests. No matter your station in life, we all dwell on the risks and rewards, weigh the pros and cons, and take the necessarily corresponding action, digging deep down for what we hope to discover are sustainable resources which will keep the lights burning and the pages of the calendar turning for as long as we have a say in the matter.

Appropriate sentiments to end on for Earth Day and, now that I think about it, a fitting tribute to Daniel Jacobs Day.

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