SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 17, 2018 – Boxing delivered plenty of its own winter games for fans around the world Saturday.
George Groves scored a strong decision victory over Chris Eubanks Jr. to advance to the finals of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament in front of an appreciative crowd in Manchester, England. Groves will fight the victor of next weekend’s semi-final between Callum Smith and Juergen Braehmer on the German’s home turf in Nuremberg.
For the first two thirds of the fight, it was an even match up. Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) took it to Eubanks Jr. (26-2, 20 KOs) in the later rounds behind an active jab, and closed the show. It was perhaps one of the best performances of Groves’ career. Eubanks Jr. may need to rethink his approach and find a trainer other than his father to breathe some creativity into his fight game.
Garcia gets back in the mix with knockout win over Rios
In the main event from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Showtime Boxing tossed two veteran welterweights into the ring and ended up with fan friendly entertainment.
Two-time champion Danny “Swift” Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) of Philadelphia put himself back in the welterweight division discussion by stopping Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs) of Oxnard, California with a blistering right hand in the ninth round. Although the never say die Rios beat the count, he was in bad shape and after a quick assessment, referee Kenny Bayliss did the right thing to save Rios from himself and stop the bout at 2:25 of the round.
Garcia, 29, needed to prove his loss to Keith Thurman was a fluke, and he got the job done with Thurman watching ringside. After a typically aggressive start by Rios, aided by a little ring rust on Garcia’s part, Garcia got into gear in the fourth round, landing several impressive right hand shots on Rios. With a guy like Rios, he relishes the action, but trainer Robert Garcia urged him in the corner not to let it happen. Rios answered in the fifth round with left hooks to the head, and kept the pressure on Garcia, who is the more technically proficient fighter, would rather box but can trade when he needs to. Both men proved they can take a punch, and both became more aggressive as the fight wore on. As predicted, Rios kept things interesting for a while, but he was behind on all three cards by a good margin when Garcia scored the knockout.
“I felt the ring rust a little bit in the beginning,” admitted Garcia after the fight. “He’s a good inside fighter. I felt good, it was a good nine rounds. He came to fight. I was prepared or it. I gave the fans what they wanted.”
Garcia said it’s been tough rebounding from his first career loss. “I have the mindset of a winner. I hate losing .. I took the loss like a true champion and I bounced back like a true champion.”
Garcia said he’s like a rematch with Thurman after he returns. Las Vegas resident Shawn Porter pushed his way into the ring and got into it with Garcia, demanding a matchup. Showtime reporter Jim Gray had to show Porter and his trainer/father Kenny out.
Rios was upset with himself after the loss. “I didn’t want to go out like that. I got up, but I guess the corner stopped it. I was walking around, I was breathing. I’ll die in the ring,” said Rios. Rios said he got lazy with his jab, and Garcia came over the top with the right hand that knocked him to the canvas, “it’s my fault.” Rios was essentially retired before this bout, and that’s where he needs to return for his own good.
Benavidez wins rematch in dominating style over Gavril
Super middleweight David Benavidez of Phoenix won his rematch with ease over a determined Ronald Gavril of Las Vegas via Romania to retain the WBC super middleweight title. Scorecards were just one round shy of a shutout, 120-108 X 2 and 119-109. At 20, Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) is currently the youngest world champion in men’s boxing.
Gavril (18-3, 14 KOs) gave the fight every bit of effort, but couldn’t get inside to unleash a sustained body attack, his best weapon. The tall Benavidez deployed his jab with brilliant accuracy, and was able to catch Gavril with his own body shots and combinations before Gavril could return fire. Benavidez was more mobile and has more speed. Especially impressive is the variety of tools in Benavidez’ tool kit, and his ability to stay patient and see the bigger picture in a fight at a young age.
“I knew he would be coming at me,” said Benavidez. “I didn’t knock him out but he’s a tough son of a gun. But I have the belt around my waist. Take a look at his face and take a look at mine.” Benavidez said he turned southpaw in the fight several times due to hurting his right hand.
“I think he tried box me, on the outside. It was a good fight for the fans of boxing, he was the good man on this night,” said Gavril, who said he would go back to the gym, go back to work and come back. “Everybody knows now” how tough he is, said Gavril.
Benavidez didn’t participate in the World Boxing Super Series; fans would love to see him against any of the semifinalists or even the eventual winner, assuming it’s likely Groves or Callum Smith.
Ortiz and Alexander fight to a draw in El Paso; Ugas drops Robinson
Earlier in the evening, former welterweight champions Victor Ortiz and Devon Alexander ground out a majority draw. Scores were 115-113 for Ortiz, and 114-114 on two cards. Alexander was the sharper puncher. landing 36% of his power punches to 32% for Ortiz, but Ortiz did close the gap over the last four rounds, outlanding Alexander 50-48 in power shots. Most observers believed Alexander did enough to get a victory, but the judges disagred.
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs) put on his best effort in many years. Alexander (27-5-2, 14 KOs) is rebuilding his career after stepping away from boxing for two years to work through an addiction to painkillers. He’s been forthcoming about his issues and his admirable honesty has done much to earn him respect. Alexander is still working to get back to his previous skills level, and his path has promise. For Ortiz, it was in many ways a face saving performance after some terrible outings. If Ortiz chooses to finally retire, he can leave with his head held high.
Worth mentioning from the undercard, welterweight Yordenis Ugas of Cuba via Miami delivered an impressive knockout victory over Ray Robinson of Philadelphia. Ugas (21-3, 10 KOs) isn’t particularly known as a power punches, but you’d change your mind after witnessing the first and seventh round knockdowns, ending with the impressive left hook to the temple that sent Robinson (24-2, 12 KOs) backward onto the deck at 1:05 of the seventh round for good.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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