SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 9, 2019 – A tenth round scare made things interesting, but after 12 full rounds, Dmitry Bivol’s impressive skills didn’t let Joe Smith Jr. turn the tide in the fight despite a few scary moments. Bivol (16-0, 11 KOs) won a unanimous decision over the tough New Yorker Smith Jr.(24-3, 20 KOs), with scores of 119-109 (Glenn Feldman and Tom Schreck) and 118-110 (Don Trella).
“Of course it’s not an easy fight,” said Bivol. “I have been training hard, Smith has big heart and strong hands.
“At the end of the fight I felt I could knock him out,” said Bivol. “But it’s not my goal. I want to show a good fight, drama fight with good defense. I hope that intelligent boxing, not only power, can make a good fight. You have to think a lot in the ring. This is a smart sport.”
Joe Smith Jr. has plenty of power. He tried to pressure Bivol, but Bivol never gave Smith Jr. a chance to unload or score. The partisan New York crowd cheered Smith Jr. on.
As Bivol realized Smith Jr. wasn’t fast enough to get to him, he began to unload good left hooks. After the fourth round, Smith Jr. told his trainer “He’s slippery, man.” Bivol’s footwork and focus allows him to stay out of trouble. Smith Jr. tried repeatedly to get Bivol against the ropes so he could unload. Bivol wasn’t having it, pivoting and spinning out of the way.
After an especially vicious left hook landed flush in the middle of the seventh round, Bivol moved in and did what he could to inflict more damage. But Smith Jr. has never been knocked down, and he did what he needed to do to survive the round. After eight rounds, Bivol’s trainer Gennady Mashianov said, “ I don’t even know how he’s standing up. Give him hell.”
A frustrated Smith Jr. resorted to some dirty tricks, tossing Bivol down. Referee Gary Rosato warned Smith Jr. he’d take a point away for the next infraction. Bivol started mixing in left hooks to the body as well as to the head in an effort to break Smith Jr. down enough to end the fight.
One punch from Smith Jr. nearly changed the fight
Just as Bivol seemed to be cruising to the victory, Smith Jr. showed why he’s such a formidable, dangerous opponent. He buzzed Bivol with a single hard shot at the end of the tenth round, and Bivol was fortunate he stayed on his feet and had the minute break to recover. Mashianov admonished Bivol, “What the (bleep) was that?!”
Bivol admitted later it got to him. “Yeah, I felt his right hand on the top of my head, side. A little bit I lose my balance. I didn’t have enough time to react, it was a good hard punch.”
A re-energized Smith Jr. got himself back into the fight with a strong effort in the 11th round. Bivol fought smart, knowing he was well ahead on the cards, using his defense to prevent Smith Jr. from scoring again. But in the final seconds of the 12th round, Bivol pinned Smith Jr. and blasted away, leaving a lasting impression. Had the fight lasted 10 more seconds, Smith Jr. would have suffered the first knockdown of his professional career.
Bivol was the far busier and more accurate puncher, landing 208 oif 714 total punches (29 percent) against just 39 total punches landed for Smith Jr. out of 395 thrown (10 percent). Bivol landed 107 of 203 power punches (53 percent) to just 21 of 175 (12 percent) for Smith Jr. But Smith Jr. proved one punch can change a fight. It simply didn’t happen for him tonight.
Bivol said he’s like a unification fight next, but he also wants a big career making statement fight someday, and he’s wiling to move down to super middleweight at 168 pounds to do it. “I want a big fight to be remembered in this sport,” declared Bivol. This puts him squarely in front of potential foes including DAZN stars Canelo Alvarez and the newest DAZN name, Gennady Golovkin. But it’s not likely until 2020. In the meantime, a fight with Marcus Browne makes the most sense for Bivol.
Maurice Hooker goes the distance with determined Mikkel Les Pierre
Maurice Hooker of Dallas (26-0-3, 17 KOs) had difficulty making weight on Friday, but even a slowed down Hooker had little trouble in his WBO super lightweight title defense against Mikkel Les Pierre of Brooklyn (21-1-1, 10 KOs). But he needed all 12 rounds to prevail over a determined Les Pierre, scoring two knockdowns en route to a unanimous decision. Scores were 120-107, 119-108, and 118-109.
Hooker finally warmed up after several rounds and stayed far more active despite not being at his best. Les Pierre did his best and given his experience and skills, it’s a moral victory he ended the fight on his feet. But he needed more volume to keep up with Hooker. Hooker landed 240 of 928 total punches (26 percent) to 103 of 488 total for Les Pierre (21 percent).
Hooker scored the first knockdown in the fifth round. Les Pierre stayed in tough. After the sixth round, trainer Vincent Parra told Hooker to back off and refrain from getting involved in a rough fight. Hooker kept after Les Pierre, investing in body work behind the jab. He dropped Les Pierre courtesy of a trio of body shots in the ninth round. Les Pierre got up, and finished with a flurry in the ninth round. Never mind that it wasn’t especially effective, Les Pierre gave his best effort to stay alive in the fight, but there was only so much he could offer.
“He’s a good guy, he’s a good fighter. He stepped up to the level, he performed good, they’re good people. It’s all love. We got people depending on us, my hat’s off to his team,” said Hooker of Les Pierre’s effort.
Hooker harshly critiqued his own performance. “I gave myself a C-minus tonight. I had to push, I live and I learn, my mistake,” admitted Hooker, referring to his failure to make weight on Friday. He said it was his fault, not his team.
“Once I get warmed to go, I like to stand up., But I did some bad rounds, I asked my coach, ‘tell me what I’m doing wrong.’ I tried to walk him down because I thought he was tired, but he wasn’t ready to go,” said Hooker. He didn’t indicate any desire to move up to welterweight at this point, and invited all possible opponents “Anybody come to DAZN and want the WBO title, come get it.” Hooker pointed at Jack Catterall sitting ringside and invited him to take his shot.
Johnson back in the mix with TKO of Monaghan
Callum Johnson of England (18-1, 13 KOs) jumped back into the thick of the competitive light heavyweight division with a definitive third round TKO victory over “Irish” Seanie Monaghan of Long Island (29-3, 17 KOs). Johnson landed power shots nearly at will on Monaghan from the opening bell. He scored two successive knockdowns in the second round. There was little reason Monaghan needed to see the third round, but his corner gave him one last chance. Referee Charlie Fitch was at the ready and stopped the fight at 2:30 of the third. At 37 with three losses in a row, Monaghan needs to consider whether his boxing career is over.
“There’s nobody better than me. I enjoyed myself in there tonight,” said Johnson. “”I’m ready for that top level again. … I’d love to fight the winner of the main event tonight.”
Kuzmin goes the distance to defeat Dawejko
Russian heavyweight Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 11 KOs) mixed it up with game veteran Joey Dawejko of Philadelph9ia (19-7-4, 11 KOs). With the two trading shots and taunts for 10 rounds, it made for an entertaining fight even without a knockout from the two big men. Kuzmin prevailed in a majority decision to retain his WBA Intercontinental heavyweight title with scores of 96-94 X 2 and 95-95 even. Dawejko gave Kuzmin a real challenge. It’s only to Kuzmin’s benefit to put in rounds against a rough edged opponent as he rises through the ranks.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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