Opening Bell: Judging the judges
All in all, the boxing card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday yielded three generally entertaining bouts but with many questions about the judging in two of them.
Heavyweight contender Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) -- titlist Deontay Wilder's mandatory challenger -- opened the show and left no doubt with an emphatic ninth-round knockout of Carlos Negron (20-2, 16 KOs).
But then came the co-feature in which Tony Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) got an absolute gift decision just in time for Christmas against Jermell Charlo (31-1, 15 KOs) to claim a junior middleweight world title he absolutely did not deserve. The three judges -- Robin Taylor (116-112), Julie Lederman (115-113) and Ron McNair (115-113) -- shockingly gave it to Harrison when everyone on the Fox broadcast, the ringside media and the Twitterverse all thought Charlo won and won clearly. Even Harrison looked shocked when the scores were announced.
No knock on Harrison. He's a good dude, a hard worker and a good fighter. But it is a massive reach to find seven rounds to score for him, especially when he spent much of the bout in reverse and never landed anything particularly notable. Charlo did not have his best performance but it was good enough that he should have retained his title for the fourth time. Harrison said he would give Charlo a rematch and that was very sportsmanlike but it should not have come to that.
The main event featured Jermall Charlo (28-0, 21 KOs), Jermell's twin brother, making the first defense of his interim middleweight belt against Matt Korobov (28-2, 14 KOs), who took the fight on Monday of fight week (he had originally been on the undercard) because Willie Monroe Jr. failed a drug test. It was actually an upgrade in opponent and Korobov, a southpaw, who feasted on Charlo with his straight left hand, fought a very good fight.
While most thought Charlo, who badly hurt and nearly stopped Korobov in the 12th round, clearly won the fight -- he got it on scores of 119-108, 116-112 and 116-112 -- what left a very bad taste in the mouths of most was the absurd 119-108 scorecard rendered by Larry Hazzard Jr. It is unacceptable to give Korobov only one round, especially with the fast start he got off to.
Korobov, who was a star Russian amateur and 2008 Olympian and once one of boxing's hottest prospects, didn't win, but he won more than one round. He also put himself in position for another meaningful fight. Like his brother, Jermall Charlo didn't perform at his best but he did win and at lest those judges got it right even if one scorecard was a joke.
Great Great Britain fights
Warrington tops Frampton to retain belt
Josh Warrington goes the distance with Carl Frampton and retains his IBF World Featherweight belt via unanimous decision.
It is rare for major cards to compete in Great Britain, but that is what happened on Saturday and both main events lived up to the hype. You couldn't go wrong with whichever one you watched live.
In Manchester, the smaller guys put on a stellar show as featherweight titlist Josh Warrington (28-0, 6 KOs) and former titlist Carl Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) collided for 12 action-packed rounds fought at a wild pace. But it was Warrington, in supreme condition and looking ready to go 20 rounds, who was absolutely relentless as he never let Frampton breathe. Warrington was the underdog but he came up big in a 116-113, 116-112, 116-112 victory that figures to pave the way to a unification fight with Oscar Valdez in mid-2019 in the United States, as long as Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) retains his title against Carmine Tommasone (19-0, 5 KOs) on ESPN on Feb. 2.
In London, the heavyweight rematch between Dillian Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs) and Dereck Chisora (29-9, 21 KOs) was another barn burner like their first fight from December 2016. It was filled with excellent back-and-forth action. But unlike that bout, which Whyte won by split decision, he left no doubt this time.
Referee Marcus McDonnell had docked Chisora a point in the eighth round for a low blow and another in the 11th round for elbowing, but he was ahead 95-94 on two scorecards and Whyte was up by the same score on the third card when Whyte turned out the lights with a knockout-of-the-year candidate at 1 minute, 56 seconds of the 11th round. He knocked Chisora out cold with a counter left hook that was as spectacular as it gets.
Whyte has now won nine fights in a row since suffering a seventh-round stoppage loss to Anthony Joshua in the fight before AJ won a world title. Whyte has wanted a rematch and if Joshua, who was ringside, doesn't fight Deontay Wilder for the undisputed title next, there is only one fight he should consider: a rematch with Whyte, who has earned it.
What made the two U.K. main events even greater was the respect the combatants showed for each other afterward.
Warrington and Frampton, who were respectful before the fight, put their arms around each other for a post-fight photo in the dressing room and Warrington tweeted to Frampton, "Respected this man beforehand, and doubled that respect after. A top bloke, a great fighter. Honored to have had the scrap we did. Cheers Carl Frampton and enjoy Christmas with the family."
Frampton tweeted, "I'm obviously extremely disappointed but I'd like to congratulate the champ Josh Warrington, who deserved to have his hand raised."
Whyte and Chisora have been bitter rivals but after the fight was over, Whyte went to Chisora's dressing room and they relaxed on a couch and chatted about their great performance.
Prospect watch: Michael Conlan
Featherweight Michael Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs), 27, of Northern Ireland, a former two-time Olympian and 2012 bronze medalist, signed with Top Rank with much fanfare after the 2016 Games and is slowly being brought along.
He took a decent step up in opposition on Saturday on the Warrington-Frampton card and scored the best win so far, a lopsided decision over former British and Commonwealth champion Jason Cunningham (24-6, 6 KOs), 29, of England, in Conlan's first scheduled 10-rounder. Conlan won 98-92, 97-92, 97-92 and looked pretty good doing it despite having a point deducted for low blows in the sixth round.
Conlan won all five of his 2018 fights and is due back in action on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, on ESPN+ at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, for a 2019 he hopes will culminate in a title shot.
"I made some mistakes in there, but it was a learning experience. It was the first time I went 10 rounds. I felt comfortable in there going the distance, and I got the job done," Conlan said. "I thought I had him going, but I couldn't get him out of there (in the 10th round). He did very well to survive. I hit him with some good shots, but he's a smart fighter and he knew how to survive."
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Manchester, England
Light heavyweight Tommy Fury (1-0) W4 Jevgenijs Andrejevs (10-103-3, 4 KOs), scores: 40-36
England's Fury, 19, the younger brother of lineal heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut on the Warrington-Frampton card after just 12 amateur fights and won a shutout over Andrejevs, 37, of Latvia, who has been stopped just 13 times out of his mind-boggling 103 defeats and fell to 0-39-1 in his last 40 bouts. But he goes rounds and gives guys the experience they need, which Fury, who is very raw, needs.
Cruiserweight Billy Joe Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs) TKO4 Charles Adamu (32-14, 25 KOs)
In his first fight in a year, former middleweight titlist Saunders, 29, of England, showed up as a flabby cruiserweight (178 pounds) barely two months after a title defense (at 160) against Demetrius Andrade was canceled because of Saunders' failed drug test, after which he vacated the belt rather than be stripped. Saunders easily handled late-replacement foe Adamu, 41, of Ghana, before making him quit after the fourth round.
Saturday at Tijuana, Mexico
Middleweight Diego Pacheco (1-0, 1 KO) KO1 Luis Gonzalez (3-3, 1 KO)
Pacheco, 17, of Los Angeles, was an eight-time national amateur champion and a much sought-after prospect until signing with Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing in September. Not yet licensed to box in the United States, Pacheco made his pro debut on a Zanfer Promotions card in Mexico and took out Mexico's Gonzalez with a right uppercut to the body at 2 minutes, 32 seconds. The plan is for Pacheco to next fight in February, again in Mexico, before he turns 18 in March and gets licensed in the U.S.
Saturday at Columbus, Ohio
Junior middleweight Charles Conwell (9-0, 7 KOs) TKO3 Manny Woods (16-8-1, 6 KOs)
Conwell, 21, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Cleveland, shined in his second professional home state fight as he bloodied and took apart Woods, 31, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, whose only previous stoppage losses were to big puncher Tyron Brunson and former world titleholder Kermit Cintron. Conwell pressured Woods, dropped him with a body shot in the opening round, bloodied his face and forced him to retire on his stool after the third round.