In a makeshift split-site pay-per-view thrown together after Yuriorkis Gamboa went off the rails and bailed from his signed fight with Brandon Rios, Juan Manuel Marquez dominated the game Sergey Fedchenko in a unanimous decision win. Meanwhile, judges Jerry Roth and Glenn Trowbridge gifted a split decision to Rios against replacement opponent Richard Abril at lightweight.
Rios (30-0-1, 21 KO) failed to make weight for the second fight in a row, coming in at 137 pounds at his initial weight-in and somehow adding two pounds when given time to lose weight. Rios was fined by the WBA and gave an undisclosed sum to Abril to allow the fight to continue as scheduled.
In the ring at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Abril (17-3-1, 8 KO) did not let the weight negotiations or the trash talk leading up to the fight distract him. He put on a ring generalship clinic against the aggressive Rios, using his jab to create distance and landing flush, sharp right hands behind it.
When the fight was at a distance, Abril dominated. In close, Rios was more active but Abril employed excellent defense with his gloves and subtle movements. This pattern for the fight was established early and unfolded with predictable repetition round after round.
One explanation for the two poor scorecards from Roth and Trowbridge could be that Rios was given undue credit for his work inside, much of which was ineffective. Although Rios was active, especially inside, Abril landed far more clean, effective punches in nearly every round.
Abril pushed the envelope with the rules by holding often on the inside, receiving two warnings but no point deductions from referee Vic Drakulich. Regardless, Abril dominated Rios with jabs and sharp right hands and was rewarded with yet another questionable decision that favored the house fighter.
To make matters worse, a $50,000 bonus was promised to the winner of the fight by Top Rank, a bonus for which only Abril was eligible due to Rios missing weight. Judges Roth and Trowbridge not only robbed Abril of his rightful decision, they actually took money out of his pocket in doing so.
“As I think about it, as it’s sinking in now, I’m incredulous… I’m stunned,” said Brian Kenny on the HBO-distributed, Top Rank PPV broadcast after the decision was announced.
Roth scored the bout 116-112 and Trowbridge scored it 115-113 in favor of Rios, who looks lethargic and slow. The dissenting judge, Adalaide Byrd, scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Abril.
Ringside commentator Rich Moretta had Abril winning 117-111. TQBR scored the fight 118-110 for Abril.
In the Mexico City, Mexico, portion of the card, Juan Manuel Marquez returned to Mexico to fight for the first time in almost 18 years and did not disappoint the home crowd, cruising to a unanimous decision victory over Sergey Fedchenko in his second career junior welterweight fight.
Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO) looked very strong at 140, with a much more muscular physique than he usually features. His accuracy was unaffected by the change, however, as he landed hard shots to Fedchenko throughout the fight, particularly hooks to the body and uppercuts inside.
Fedchenko (30-2, 13 KO) stood his ground and gave Marquez some problems with his movement and counter punching but was ultimately unable to gain traction against the future Hall of Famer.
Any punches Fedchenko managed to land were met with harder, sharper punches from Marquez in response.
In the 10th round, Marquez enlivened a somewhat bored crowd with a flurry of hard shots that left Fedchenko stumbling to the corner at the bell.
In the 12th round, Marquez went in for the kill to the roars of his approving fans, punishing Fedchenko with flurries of blows, but Fedchenko managed to keep his feet and fight back valiantly until the final bell.
The judges scored the fight 119-109, 118-110, and 118-110 in favor of Marquez. TQBR scored the fight 120-108 for Marquez.
Marquez is scheduled to fight on July 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the plan coming into tonight was for Marquez to face Rios should both win as expected.
Although both favored fighters did indeed finish the night victorious, the suspect nature of the outcome of Rios’ fight and his disappointing failure once again to make weight puts a damper on the prospect of his fighting Marquez.
Nonetheless, I expect Arum and company to go through with the plan, dismissing any protests to the merit of Rios’ victory and promising a must-see event. While Rios may not have earned it with his performance or his professionalism, it might turn out to be a great fight anyway.
But if Richard Abril returns to obscurity after tonight, Marquez-Rios will leave a bitter aftertaste. Although Abril brings little to the table economically and fights in a style that will not attract demand from fans to see more of him, he was the rightful winner tonight and deserves another opportunity at a high-profile fight.