Aussie wrap-up for December
Jeff 'The Hornet' Horn's victory against Gary 'Hellraiser' Corcoran was the headline fight in a hugely busy December for Australian boxing. Anthony Cocks rounds up all the action in a mammoth edition of his regular column...
WBO welterweight champion Jeff 'The Hornet' Horn 18-0-1 (12) was back in action for the first time since his breakthrough win over eight-division world titlist Manny Pacquiao in July when he battled it out against Britain’s Gary 'Hellraiser' Corcoran 17-2 (7) at the Convention & Exhibition Centre in Brisbane, Queensland on 13 December, retaining his title by 11th-round TKO of a rough and tumble blood-filled fight.
The 29-year-old former schoolteacher, who was originally scheduled to face Pacquiao in a rematch one month earlier before the Filipino senator withdrew citing government commitments, was cut in the sixth round while Corcoran was opened up above the left eye in the 8th which worsened as the fight progressed. The 27-year-old Londoner’s corner retired their fighter at 1:35 of the 11th due to the severity of the cut and the one-sided nature of the bout on the judges’ scorecards.
Horn suffered a nasty-looking vertical cut above his left eye in sparring three weeks out from the fight and spent much of the lead-up using a professional make-up artist to help disguise the wound – which required eight stitches – from the Corcoran camp at their various media engagements. The partially-healed cut would be a bullseye for Corcoran’s right throughout the fight.
“We had it repaired as quickly as possible as Jeff has still trained very well even though we had to stop the sparring,” Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton told the media. “We will still win this fight. Jeff will have a very high, tight guard to protect it.”
The British traveller held his own in the early going but it was Horn’s size, strength and stamina that helped him overwhelm his opponent with each progressing round. American judges Lou Moret from Los Angeles and Levi Martinez of Las Cruces only award Corcoran a single round, while Lisa Giampa of Las Vegas had Horn pitching a shutout. There were no knockdowns.
Horn is widely expected to face former unified junior welterweight champion Terence 'Bud' Crawford 32-0 (23) in his next bout after the 30-year-old American was installed as the WBO’s mandatory contender when he announced his plans to move up to the 147-pound weight class in October. But if Sydneysider Anthony 'The Man' Mundine 47-8 (27) gets by two-time former world title challenger Tommy 'The Titan' Browne 35-6-2 (13) on 17 January at the Star City Hotel & Casino in Sydney there has been talk of matching the former WBA super middleweight champion with Horn in a big money matchup rumoured to be worth AUD$2 million to the Queenslander. The fight would take place at junior middleweight, the weight class where Mundine has campaigned in recent years.
The Horn vs Corcoran undercard featured some of Australia’s best talent in interesting match-ups. IBF number 6 featherweight Nathaniel 'Cheeky' May 19-1 (11) of Bunbury, WA, put on a brutal display of power boxing against Aelio Meqsquita 16-1 (14) of Brazil, dropping him three times with body shots en route to a fifth-round TKO. With the win May claimed the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title at 126lbs.
Also on the card the Gold Coast’s Rohan 'No Mercy' Murdock 21-1 (15) scored a wide points victory over Russia’s Apti Ustarkhanov 15-3-3 (5) to claim the WBO Oriental super middleweight title. Scores were 99-91, 100-90 and 97-93. Murdock will next be in action on the undercard of Mexican WBO 168-pound champion Gilberto Ramirez's 36-0 (24) next fight against Habib Ahmed 25-0-1 (17) in Corpus Christi, Texas on 3 February against an opponent to be named. If Murdock is successful, Top Rank plans on having him fight once more in either the USA or Mexico before making a fight between the 25-year-old Aussie and the 26-year-old southpaw champion.
Unbeaten super featherweight Paul 'Showtime' Fleming 25-0 (17) outboxed Filipino Vergil 'Strong Man' Puton 17-9 (8) before stopping him in the seventh round of a scheduled eight rounder. Puton’s right eye was busted up and swollen shut at the time of the stoppage, with the 29-year-old Sydney-based southpaw, originally from Tully in Queensland, comfortably ahead on two of the judges’ scorecards 60-54 and 59-55, while the third judge surprisingly had it closer at 57-57.
Former heavyweight world title challenger Alex 'The Lionheart' Leapai 31-7-4 (21) had to settle for a technical draw after a clash of heads prematurely ended his eight-round fight with Roger Izonritei 12-6-1 (11) in the third. Leapai, who faced Wladimir Klitschko for the unified heavyweight championship in 2014, was comfortably ahead 20-17 on all three cards and a knockout victory looked imminent when the fight was stopped.
At welterweight former world title challenger Leonardo Zappavigna 37-3 (27) needed little more than two rounds to dismiss Nestor Faccio 16-9-2 (9) of Uruguay, stopping him at 0:34 of the third in a scheduled eight-round bout.
Zappavigna’s last loss was to IBF junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets 13-0 (10) in December 2016, going down in the eighth round of an even fight at the USC Galen Centre in Los Angeles, California. Lipinets is scheduled to face Mikey Garcia 37-0 (30) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on 10 February.
Popular female super bantamweight 'Shotgun' Shannon O’Connell 16-6-1 (8) rebounded from back-to-back losses to Marcela Eliana Acuna and Helen Joseph to get back in the winner’s circle with a first-round TKO of Thailand’s Sumalee Tongpootorn 8-8-1.
O’Connell dropped a competitive decision to Acuna for the IBF female super bantamweight world title in Argentina in June and was stopped the following month by hard-hitting Nigerian Joseph in the second round.
IBF number 3 ranked super bantamweight TJ 'The Power' Doheny 18-0 (13) has secured himself a shot at newly-minted world champion Ryosuke Iwasa 24-2 (16) with a twelve-round split decision win over IBF number 7 Mike Tawatchai 44-11-1 (27) at the Suamlum Night Bazaar in Bangkok, Thailand on 20 December.
Despite the split decision verdict – one judge had Tawatchai ahead 115-113, while the other two tabbed Doheny the winner by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 – it was Doheny who controlled the bout with his clean punching and effective aggression. It was also the first time Doheny had been extended the distance in his past seven fights.
The 31-year-old Irish-born southpaw, who lives in Bondi Junction in Sydney’s inner eastern suburbs, was originally scheduled to face former world champion and IBF number 6 Evgeny Gradovich 23-2-1 (9) in Russia on 15 December but that fight fell through after 'El Ruso Mexicano' was found to have a career-threatening eye injury three weeks out from the bout. Fortunately for Doheny a fight with Tawatchai, who was born Pipat Chaiporn, was able to be arranged for just five days after the originally scheduled fight date in nearby Thailand.
The IBF super bantamweight title has been passed around of late, with former champions Jonathan Guzman and Yukinori Oguni both losing their claim to the belt in maiden title defences. It remains to be seen if Iwasa, who defeated Oguni in September by TKO in round six to annex the title, can buck that trend.
Doheny is managed by Mike Altamura of MJA Entertainment and is promoted by Ken Casey’s Murphys Boxing outfit. If the name Ken Casey sounds familiar, it might be because he is the singer and bass guitarist of Boston Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys.
Fighting just above the light heavyweight limit, KO artist Bilal Akkawy 16-0-1 (14) needed just two rounds to knock out well-travelled journeyman Rogerio Damasco 16-8-1 (15) of Brazil at Club Punchbowl on 8 December on a Neutral Corner promotion. Akkawy dominated all three minutes and 49 seconds of the contest.
Akkawy will step up in class in when he takes on Italy’s former WBA super middleweight champion Giovanni de Carolis 24-8-1 (12) at the same venue on 24 February.
World-rated southpaw Darragh Foley 14-2 (8) had to work hard to get past Filipino Ernie Sanchez 17-11-1 (8) in defence of his WBA Oceania junior welterweight crown.
The IBF number eleven found himself on the canvas in the first and again in the fourth and had to rally to get the win by scores of 76-74 across the board.
Hot junior middleweight prospect Troy O’Meley 4-0 (2) knocked out Steven Maxwell 6-52-2 at 2:20 of the second round of a scheduled six.
Perth-based Welsh junior middleweight Jamie Weetch 11-2 (4) scored the biggest win of his short pro career with a clearcut points win over Sydney’s Yao Yi Ma 15-3-1 (10) at the Metro Nightclub in Perth to annex the vacant IBF Pan Pacific title on 1 December.
The 28-year-old Weetch caught his Taiwanese-born opponent with a left hook at the end of the first round that sent him to the canvas.
“We had a little trade off at the end of the first round and we caught each other at the same time,” said Weetch. “But mine had more venom on it and I dropped him. It would’ve definitely been a stoppage if I had another 20 seconds at the end of that round.”
Despite giving away six inches in height, Weetch boxed beautifully to slip under punches and counter with left hooks to the body and head and chopping right hands to the jaw. When the dust settled, Weetch had been awarded the victory by scores of 97-92, 100-90 and 98-91.
“‘I was enjoying it but it was a very hard night at the office,” said Weetch. “I was making him miss and making him pay with a straight right or overhand right over his jab. The left hook was catching him clean, rattling the head clean off him, you know. I don’t think he was enjoying his night in there either.”
After the fight Weetch issued an open-ended challenge to his fellow 154-pounders. “I’ll fight anyone,” Weetch said. “Anyone in the country. I am the best at junior middleweight in the country and I’m happy to prove that to anyone who thinks different.”
Three-time Australian heavyweight champion Bob 'The Big Bear' Mirovic 31-25-3 (21) had the last fight of his storied 30-year professional career against New Zealand’s Lui Te’o 2-7-1 (2) on 2 December at the Halekulani Bowling Club in the small country town of Budgewoi, New South Wales.
The 51-year-old, who hails from the Central Coast in New South Wales, had to settle for a majority draw over six rounds by scores of 57-57 twice and 55-59. The Croatian-born Mirovic debuted against Sam Kurukitoga in at the Cronulla Workingmen’s Club in Sydney in 1987 and by the mid-to-late 90s had become a staple of the Australian boxing scene.
The popular Mirovic has fought some of the leading contenders in world boxing, including Joe Bugner, Nikolay Valuev, Kali Meehan, Danny Williams, Matt Skelton, Timo Hoffmann, Rob Calloway, Frans Botha, Shane Cameron, Sinan Samil Sam, Justin Fortune and Alex Leapai. Locally, he developed an endearing rivalry with Emerald coalminer Colin Wilson 35-31-1 (21) fighting him five times from 1995 through to 2007, winning three by decision and the first and last contest by TKO8 and KO8 respectively.
Former IBF featherweight champion Billy 'The Kid' Dib 44-4 (25) cruised to an eight-round victory over Thai journeyman Phum Kunmat 24-23-2 (16) at the Mediterranean House in Five Dock, Sydney, NSW on 2 December. Dib, who is ranked number three at super featherweight by the IBF behind two vacant positions, easily outboxed Kunmat to win by scores of 80-72 across the board.
Also on the Rob Fogarty-promoted show Brock Jarvis 12-0 (11) needed little more than a minute to claim the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council bantamweight title with a clean one-punch knockout of previously unbeaten Thai Wichet Sengprakhon 8-1 (3).
Jarvis was on the attack from the opening bell, stalking the Thai visitor around the ring as he looked for openings to land his left hook to the body and right cross to the head. With Sengprakhon on the ropes, Jarvis fired off a short right uppercut that caused his head to snap back. His body slumped to the canvas as he looked for a quiet place to sleep. The official time was 1:01 of the first round.
On New Year’s Eve Dib was back in the ring in Thailand in a stay-busy fight against a southpaw opponent Natthawat Thawithong 14-14 (7) stopping him in the second round.
Both Dib and Jarvis are trained by former three-division world champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Jeff 'The Marrickville Mauler' Fenech.
New Zealand-born Cherneka 'Sugar Neekz' Johnson 8-0 (3) claimed the vacant WBA Oceania 118lbs title with an eight-round points decision over tough Filipino Gretel de Paz 4-3 (2) at the Warrnambool Stadium in Warrnambool, Victoria on 9 December in the headline fight of Hosking Promotions' 'War at the ‘Bool 2'.
“We’re definitely working our way to the top. This journey is only just the beginning,” she said after the fight. “My goal is to be number one in the division, I want to be number one. I want to be known as the world champ.”
The 22-year-old Johnson, who recently relocated to Warrnambool on the south west coast of Victoria from the sunny climes of Queensland’s Gold Coast, had to rely on her boxing skill against the aggressive de Paz to eventually win by scores of 80-73 and 78-74 twice after eight two-minute rounds.
Despite the wide scores Johnson didn’t have it all her own way. In the fifth round, de Paz launched an all-out attack but the gutsy Johnson stood her ground and rallied back in the later rounds to close the show strongly and earn a deserved decision victory.
On the same show Hobart middleweight 'Smoking' Joe Corner 5-2-1 (3) scored a six-round unanimous decision over Bendigo’s Damien Lock 2-3-1. Corner had Lock down in the second round and this proved to be the difference on the judges’ scorecard, who ruled in favour of the Tasmanian 58-56 twice and 58-55.
Also on the card, popular Tasmanian cruiserweight Jayden 'Plugger' Nichols 5-0-1 (1) scored a four-round decision win over Nathan MacLean 1-2 of Warrnambool. The judges had it 40-36 and 39-37 twice.
In a mishmash of cultures, Townsville-born heavyweight Kurtis Pegoraro 11-3 (1) fought Kazakh-born, German-based Eugen Buchmueller 9-1 (6) for the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental title and the vacant WBO China Zone title at the Asia Games Stadium in Guangzhou, China on 10 December, coming away with a dominant points wins after ten one-sided rounds.
The 28-year-old Pegoraro had to rush from the hospital maternity ward to the airport after his wife gave birth to their daughter just three hours before he was due to fly out.
“The experience in China was amazing,” said Pegoraro, who was having both his first fight overseas and his first ten-round bout. “The amount of people coming up to us for photos and to wish us luck was incredible. With the experience to fight in front of a massive stadium and live on Chinese TV is something that as a kid from a small country town in North Queensland I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do.”
In the biggest win of his career, the Brisbane-based Pegoraro dominated Buchmueller with his superior footwork and boxing skills to win by scores of 99-91 and 100-91 twice.
“The fight played out the way I wanted it to,” said Pegoraro. “We tried to control the distance and the ring by using my reach and footwork, damaging the left eye and forcing it to partially shut and eventually cutting in the later rounds.”
Silvia Scharper 8-1-2 (2) won her first world title when she stopped Thailand’s Rungnapha Kaewkrachang 13-11-1 (1) in the fifth round of a ten-round contest for the WIBA super flyweight title at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Australia on 8 December on a Team Ellis show.
The Darcy Ellis-trained Scharper was in control throughout the bout and stopped Kaewkrachang with a well-timed body shot. The time was 1:51.
On the same card Shepparton’s 'Fighting Cowboy' Dwight Ritchie 16-1 (2) overcame a nasty cut over his right eye to serve up Shay Brock’s 12-1-1 (6) first loss with a ten-round unanimous decision to claim the vacant IBF Youth junior middleweight title.
Neither boxer was ever in trouble with Ritchie running away the winner by scores of 99-93, 100-91 and 99-91.
The lone loss on Ritchie’s ledger came in Japan in 2016 when he travelled to Osaka to defend his OPBF middleweight title against Koki Tyson 13-3-2 (11) who edged him on points over 12 rounds in a close fight.
On the same night in Woden, ACT, light heavyweight Steve Lovett 17-2 (13) had his second fight back in Australia after 11 fights in the USA since relocating to Texas back in 2013. Lovett was a little too classy for Steve Moxon 5-5 (4) winning their eight-round clash by scores of 77-76, 79-73 and 78-75.
Maltese-born Sydneysider Haithem Laamouz 12-0 (5) scored a fifth-round knockout of Indonesian Egy Rozten 5-18-2 (3) in a junior welterweight contest.
Hard-hitting super middleweight Zac 'Dynamo' Dunn 25-1 (20) had too much firepower for Cedric Spera 13-7 (3) of Belgium, winning by TKO4 when they clashed at the Melbourne Pavilion on 9 December of a Big Time Boxing promotion.
The 26-year-old Melbournian was having his second fight since losing his Commonwealth 168-pound title to Scotland’s David Brophy 19-2-1 (3) in March when his corner threw in the towel in the seventh round of an even fight.
At middleweight Jake Carr 16-1 (6) dropped Argentinian Juan Adrian Monzon 8-1-3 (7) twice to secure the stoppage at 2:03 of the sixth round of an eight round contest.
Former Australian heavyweight champion Willie 'Wild Bill' Nasio 11-3 (10) bounced back from his TKO loss to unbeaten Demsey McKean 11-0 (5) in October to stop southpaw Ben Sosoli 3-3 (1) in the second round of a six-round fight. It was the first time Sosoli had been stopped.
In Brisbane cruiserweight Ben Kelleher 7-0-2 (4) clashed with Kiwi Nikolas Charalampous 16-2 (7) defeating him on points over ten rounds to secure the vacant ANBF Australasian title by scores of 96-94 and 97-93 twice at the Mansfield Tavern in Brisbane on an Ace Boxing promotion on 2 December.
April Adams 8-1-1 (3) won the Australian female super bantamweight title with an eight round unanimous decision victory over fellow Queenslander Kori Farr 2-4-2 by scores of 78-74 and 79-73 twice.
At light heavyweight Reagan Dessaix 12-1 (8) outboxed Kalgoorlie-based Kiwi Jai Bryce 3-8 (2) over five rounds to pitch a shutout on all three judges’ scorecards.