PONTIAC, Mich. — Saturday night’s superfight between undefeated belt-holders Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander expected not only to create boxing’s next superstar, but also serve as a litmus test for the viability of Michigan as a staging ground for championship fights going forward.
The owners of the Silverdome spent just $583,000 to purchase the property less than a year ago and somehow coughed up more than a half million dollars to host the fight, leading locals and fight fans to wonder whether they were delusional or just foolish. The success of Saturday night’s card will say a lot about the viability of big-time boxing in a historic hotbed of the sport.
Saturday night’s undercard proved unexpectedly entertaining, with several dramatic knockouts and a couple longer battles thrown in for good measure. Here’s our take; for a lengthier account of the night with some additional color, stop by Stiff Jab.
Former lightweight champ Julio Diaz pummeled Pavel Miranda in the opening bout, ending the welterweight contest with with two knockdowns in the 8th round. Diaz looked sharp and too wily for Miranda, who was hurt badly with a left earlier in the fight.
The crowd started filing in and speaking up when local super middleweight Darry Cunningham took the ring against Alberto Mercedes, who looked aware of his role as the evening’s foil. Cunningham bobbed and weaved, brusing aside Mercedes’ pawing jab in favor of swift right hooks and straight lefts.
My neighbor Nick correctly obsevered Cunningham’s southpaw style was confounding Mercedes, whose 16-14 record entering indicates the confusion was not novel. By the 4th round Cunningham’s punches were finding their target at will and a cut above the Dominican’s right eye belied the effect of the Detroiter’s punches.
A straight left in the 6th sent Alberto cowering to the campus as Cunningham loomed over him screaming taunts at his injured opponent. Mercedes games tried to respond as blood flowed from the cut while Cunningham showed the restraint of a veteran if not the killer instinct of a champion.
Cunningham scored a clean sweep on all three scorecards after the six-round contest and received appreciation from his hometown crowd in line with the solid but not sensational performance.
Junior middleweight prospect Julian Williams followed by making short work of Indianapolis’ Alan Moore. Williams dropped Moore with a sharp short hook and floored him again immediately, forcing the ref to stop the fight after just 28 seconds.
Allen Conyers woke up undefeated welterweight “King” James De La Rosa with counter uppercut in the 2nd round that sent the touted Texan to the mat, from which he sprang up in disbelief. Conyers (11-4, 9 KOs) looked too big and strong for De La Rosa (20-0, 12 KOs); anyone ringside could be forgiven for assuming their records had been transposed.
De La Rosa’s poor defense left him reduced to clutching Conyers’ leg for support after a 6th-round knockdown and another in the 8th put the result beyond doubt. After the fight Conyers was thrilled to win after a three-year absence and said he felt pleased politics hadn’t prevented him from securing the unanimous decision.
Former junior welterweight champ Kendall Holt shimmied in victory after dispatching Lenin Arroyo with a left hook one minute and 50 seconds into the 1st round. Holt is looking to resurrect his career after losing his last two fights to headliner Tim Bradley and Kaizer Mabuza.
Your correspondent was forced to miss much of the light heavyweight contest between Marcus Oliveira and local journeyman Demetrius Jenkins due recurring WiFi issues at the Silverdome. Fortunately the contest proved to be the evening’s least noteworthy. Oliveira secured the unanimous decision.
Miami heavyweight Bermane “B-Ware” Stiverne picked up a host of alphabet trinkets by tapping Kertson Manswell with the left hook and following it with a straight right that hit the mark. The ref stopped the fight at one minute 52 seconds of the 2nd round.
Wearing the yellow of the legendary Kronk Gym, undefeated junior welterweight Vernon Paris entered to the cheers of his hometown crowd but found a game opponent in veteran Emanuel Augustus, who previously announced Saturday would be his final professional fight.
Paris’ quickness and hand speed posed problems for Augustus, who nevertheless kept advancing despite being peppered with sharp blows to the face. The fight got heated in the 4th after Paris landed a series of left hooks and the Chicagoan responded by throwing him to the mat at the bell. The crowd grew boisterous as the two fighters circled and taunted each other, with Augustus attempting to turn the match into a brawl while Paris worked to maintain his distance and box.
Despite clearly getting the worse of the action Augustus seemed to be growing stronger heading into the 6th round, dancing in place to the music. He showed unexpected life and spirit in the round for a man supposedly at the end of a long career. His unrelenting assault began to back Paris into the ropes, where Augustus bullied the less experienced fighter.
The partisan crowd began showing is appreciation for the old man’s efforts as Paris showed signs of reverting to his trademark late-round fade and the referee stepped in with a highly questionable point deduction for hitting on the break. The crowd was audibly displeased despite the fact the decision had helped their man.
The ref issued another warning in the 7th to Augustus for an elbow as Paris showed signs of life once more. But still Augustus kept coming and releasing his hands, not willing to go into the night without having first used every punch left in his fists.
Paris undoubtedly came into the fight with the advantage in terms of talent and support, but his his deficit in heart left him in an vulnerable position entering the 8th and final round. Both men came out swinging and neither looked secure in his position on the scorecards. Paris’ legs showed signs of fading towards the end, while Augustus refused to let down his constant pressure.
If Saturday night is indeed his last time in the ring, Emanuel Augustus went out as a warrior should. The unanimous decision for Paris felt almost meaningless; the fans who cheered the hometown boy’s entrance found themselves booing his victory. The old man from Chicago had won their respect.