Promoter Lou DiBella’s triple-header from the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort at Mashantucket, Connecticut, Saturday night put some unfamiliar names on perhaps the sport’s most recognizable platform. While the opportunity to watch three fights might seem like a windfall, a discerning viewer still had grounds for scrutinizing the competition with a “persecuting spirit.” A less discerning diner might wolf down this serving of largely uncompetitive action as a testament to his “love of the sport,” but one cannot help wonder whether such love should be given so freely when so little is given in return.
The opening bout matched Montreal’s Antonin Decarie with Alex Perez, Newark, New Jersey, in a ten-round welterweight tussle. In his mission to “be recognized by everybody, not just boxing connoisseurs,” Decarie, 27-1 (8), used sharper technique and a sound strategy to confound Perez en route to a 6th-round TKO.
Decarie exploited his advantage in foot speed, throwing right hands to Perez’ body to untangle the southpaw. Recognizing that Perez was pulling straight back from exchanges with his chin up, Decarie began to loop his right hand, repeatedly crashing it into the taller man’s skull. Perez, 146, never adjusted to the wider trajectory of Decarie’s right hand. Was it the dearth of knockouts on Decarie’s ledger that led Perez, now 16-1 (9), into believing that he could absorb Decarie’s worst intentions? Did surviving a gunshot wound give him a false sense of resilience? Or was it a lack of seasoning that prevented Perez from getting his left hand up and tucking his chin? Whatever the reason, this flaw would prove costly in the sixth round, as Decarie hammered home a left hook that had Perez dancing like nobody was watching. A followup right had Perez on the canvas. He rose like a newborn giraffe, and Decarie set upon him with both hands, forcing referee Danny Schiavone to save Perez as he lolled along the ropes. The official time of the stoppage was 2:54.
Decarie, 147, wanted to score a knockout, and he deserves credit for pursuing that end and for understanding the role of the performance in his trade. He should also be given credit for following his corner’s advice, as the hook that undid Perez was the product of Decarie following specific instructions. While this wasn’t the forum for drawing the attention of everybody, the connoisseurs—whoever they may be—will probably remember Decarie after Saturday night.
The card’s penultimate bout saw the eternally cantankerous Vic Darchinyan move up four pounds to the junior featherweight division and win a unanimous decision over Luis Del Valle, Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Darchinyan, long removed from both his destructive peak and the divisions that witnessed it, brought ample malice and just enough power to the duke, subjecting Del Valle, 16-1 (11), to a tutorial in awkward belligerence.
Darchinyan, Glendale, California, via Armenia, pressed the action for the majority of the fight, using his blend of savage unpredictability and cool ruthlessness to bang home his fists, forearms, and cranium. As early as the third round, Del Valle, 122, was struggling to avoid the awkward strikes of his crouched antagonist, particularly Darchinyan’s straight left hand and left uppercut. Del Valle looked unnerved, but he never unraveled, even when a headbutt opened a large gash on his chin. He was discombobulated by Darchinyan’s style and absorbing a lot of punishment—referee Eddie Cotton could have reasonably began to work a stoppage in the middle rounds—but rather than capitulate, Del Valle fired back defiantly. In the ninth round, Del Valle almost ruined a fading Darchinyan with a left hook. Darchinyan wobbled, but survived, and while he was unable to fully recover between rounds, he had the wherewithal to stave off Del Valle in the closing stanza. The scores read 99-91, 99-91, and 96-94, for Darchinyan.
Darchinyan, 38-5-1 (27), is hardly the menace he once was, which makes appraising Del Valle difficult. Del Valle dropped a lopsided decision to a fighter who had lost three of his previous five fights at 118 pounds, a once murderous puncher who hadn’t registered a stoppage since 2009. Taking Darchinyan’s recent quality of opposition into account might explain his struggles, but it still reflects poorly on Del Valle that he was so easily beaten by the undersized 36 year-old. Del Valle’s performance showed his toughness, his resolve, and little more. Fighters have made careers of being resolute, but this was probably not the image Del Valle wanted to portray. The sting of the loss, however, may be mitigated somewhat by Darchinyan’s next performance, as he may not be as shopworn as previously thought.
In the main event, super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez bludgeoned Union City, New Jersey’s Jason Escalera on the way to an 8th-round TKO. This shameful mismatch was a testament to promotional trickery. Escalera, 12-1-1 (11), was touted as a puncher on the strength of his record, and therefore a suitable test for Rodriquez. But Escalera’s ledger is like a “Scratch and Sniff” children’s book—a little scratching of the surface produces a stink. The combined record of Escalera’s opponents (excluding Rodriguez) is 51-47-4. This was not a fight between two exciting young punchers; this fight, like Escalera’s record, was the product of smoke and mirrors.
Rodriguez, Worcester, Massachusetts, via the Dominican Republic, upped his record to 22-0 (15) by rehydrating to an unofficial 186 pounds on fight night and lobbing bombs off Escalera’s head. Escalera, 165, did little more than absorb a beating at the hands of his massive opponent. His mouthpiece was repeatedly smashed from his mouth by Rodriguez’ blows (in part because Escalera didn’t have a proper gumshield), and his crude winging had all the effect of a wiffle bat on his cruiserweight tormentor. After tenderizing Escalera for seven rounds, Rodriguez landed a left hook on his opponent’s ear that produced a stream of blood, causing referee Steve Smoger to end the lopsided affair at 0:12 of the 8th round.
If this was supposed to be a test, Escalera would not have been selected as the opponent; if it was supposed to be a learning experience, Rodriguez’ ability to clown his hapless opponent casts doubt on the fight’s pedagogical merit. Even viewers must admit they gleaned very little from watching Rodriguez bust Escalera up. When pressed to name future opponents, Rodriguez mentioned Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, fighters who would ask serious questions of Rodriguez in fights actually deserving of an HBO main event.
A few hours earlier, the Sportshalle in Hamburg, Germany, became the scene of a geriatricide when Alexander Povetkin scored a TKO over broken relic Hasim Rahman, stopping him at 1:46 of the second round. Povetkin, 229, has chosen to wait out the division’s apex predator-Wladimir Klitschko-and has been honing his skills on greybeards like Rahman and Cedric Boswell, and plucky cruiserweight Marco Huck (who landed enough right hands upside the pudgy Russian’s head to earn a draw on one scorecard last February). Rahman, 50-7-2 (41), is best remembered for short-circuiting a lackadaisical Lennox Lewis in 2001, before being beheaded in the rematch. Chekhov’s gun would dictate that the Lewis victory be excluded from the current narrative—why mention what would never factor into the drama? That shocking right hand detonated on Lewis’ chin eleven years and twenty pounds ago, and Rahman is a mere simulacrum of his former self.
This version of the Baltimore, Maryland, fighter stepped between the ropes on Saturday weighing a fleshy 256 1/2 pounds, and limped to the ring like he had buckshot in his rump. When the bloodletting began, Povetkin, Chekhov, Russia, couldn’t miss his mark. He wobbled Rahman in the first round, then trapped him on the ropes in the second and chopped away until referee Gustavo Padilla halted the contest. Rahman, indefensibly the mandatory for Povetkin’s piece of WBA costume jewellery, should retire. Since this was a title fight, perhaps we should give it a title. How about “Sham?” Povetkin, 24-0(16), need not embrace the beating he would receive from either Klitschko: the heavyweight division, while maligned for an absence of ability, does promise some intriguing matchups when the Ukrainian siblings are excluded from the group. Povetkin has options, and with this mandated scavenging of the seniors circuit complete, he should pursue foes he has to use his teeth on.