(Richard Abril punches Sharif Bogere; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
Richard Abril may have won the unanimous decision Saturday on Showtime over Sharif Bogere, but he might never truly thrive in boxing, so cringe-worthy is his style. Bogere was a willing partner in the mauling and fouling, unfortunately, to collaborate for an ugly, ugly, ugly bout. It takes a lot of horribleness for two top-10 lightweights to go at it with this level of intensity and leave everyone wishing their eyeballs were never scarred by such a sight.
Doubling up the misery was an undercard that featured mega-talented featherweight Gary Russell, Jr. winning a monotonous one-sided decision over the latest in his never-ending series of hopeless opponents, which somehow is more exasperating than 12 rounds of horrid mauling.
RICHARD ABRIL – SHARIF BOGERE
Richard Abril's style is effective enough for him to win close decisions (as he did against Sharif Bogere) or lose them (as he did against Brandon Rios), but does he have a single fan outside of his hot wife? There might have been 30 audience members on hand in Las Vegas, as the rest of the sport's hardcore expected what we got.
The decision was just about right, probably, at 115-111 and 116-110 and 116-110 again. I saw Bogere winning the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th, with the 8th round even and the 12th round a 10-8 round for Abril. Those peculiar rounds speak to the fouls in the bout, which kept controversial referee Russell Mora busy and putting him in the unenviable position of trying to figure out when or if to penalize these ruffians. He decided to dock Abril in the 8th for holding and Bogere for head butting in the 12th. Both fouls occurred plentifully throughout, and there was a slight hope that the whole thing might be called off in the 6th after a head butt opened a nasty crevice over Abril's left eye. The ring doctor did not, alas, answer our collective prayers.
Basically, Abril landed the cleaner shots more often, while Bogere was often the aggressor, so in the rounds where Abril landed too few clean shots and Bogere was the only one doing anything, Bogere won, and when Abril's clean shots outpaced Bogere's sloppy, empty, more frequent shots, Abril won rounds.
Bogere, at least, has been in the occasional watchable bout, whereas Abril is pure spoiler. Abril has a lightweight belt. He'll be the latest test of how much those alphabet belts help boxers — sometimes they do, while sometimes other things overrule them, like being an atrocity to behold. Adrien Broner, Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez all deserve to be rated above Abril at 135, but I suppose if Vazquez beats Burns this month, Broner will have to decide between equally stinky but similarly qualified lightweights in Vazquez and Abril for his next opponent. Pity the thought.
GARY RUSSELL, JR. – VYACHESLAV GUSEV
I want to like Gary Russell, Jr. I love speedy fighters, and he's #1 in the world in that category, period. I root for D.C. boxers because I live there. But his level of competition makes him contemptible. And while Vyacheslav Gusev has been better than some of his pure bullshit opponents over the last year-plus, he was hopeless before the bell rang and couldn't win a single round despite Russell injuring his money left hand at some point in the bout.
What's even to talk about? Russell outquicked and outskilled Gusev from moment one, with a counter right hook forcing him to touch his glove to the mat in the 2nd, and then dominated him with his right hand for most of the rest of the fight. Gusev might've had a chance if he had any power, but he doesn't, so that's that. Easy 100-89 decision across the board.
There is simply no good reason, zero zip none, for Showtime to keep airing Russell mismatches of this variety, but I have no doubt, zero zip none, that they'll continue to do so indefinitely because Russell is a mega-talent who's advised by Showtime fave Al Haymon, and that's all it takes. Russell might be favored to beat most anybody he faces, but he doesn't even face anyone who counts as "qualified." If Russell had any professional pride whatsoever, he would do better than this, but he clearly doesn't. I hate to impugn the guts of any boxer, but he's shown negative bravery in his opponent choices and it's so much more disgusting because he has the kind of talent where bravery is hardly even required. And Showtime is the enabler of this vomit-worthy phenemonon, so who's going to break the cycle?
On Sho Extreme:
Light heavyweight prospect Thomas Williams, Jr. made easy work of Kevin Engel, who'd been in with some other top youngsters who did much the same. He ended him in three rounds with a straight left to the body, then added a couple head shots while Engel was on the way down for good measure. Williams got tagged a couple times, but otherwise had his way with the defense-absent Engel. Comparatively, the southpaw Williams showed off speed, versatility and solid power. He's apparently the latest Al Haymon product to get a Showtime spot, and maybe that's why he got on the network with just 12 fights to his name. I'd be interested in seeing him on ShoBox before long, but don't know if we need another look at him on one of the big two networks until he's ready to step up. Also, I have to support him because he's from D.C. But there looks to be talent there, so it should be an easy root.
Lightweight Jeffrey Fontanez is a power punching prospect who has been taking guys out quickly, so he got some much-needed rounds in a six-round decision over veteran Daniel Attah. Fontanez looked like a boxer who both knew he needed rounds (he fought at a slower pace than when I saw him last in Madison Square Garden in December) and wasn't accustomed to them (as the rounds wore on he appeared increasingly winded and inactive). You could give Attah a round or two, maybe, just because late he was the only one landing punches, and there were a couple spots where he might've wobbled Fontanez or else Fontanez got knocked backward off balance. Either way, it was an easy unanimous decision win and some vital seasoning for the Miguel Cotto-promoted Puerto Rican.
The performance you had to be really impressed with on the Sho Extreme segment was the one by junior middleweight Jorge Melendez, who scored a nasty uppercut knockout of Ryan Davis. The 34-year-old went the distance with Zab Judah way back in 2007, and while he has been knocked out by lesser fighters since, Melendez had him out cold the second he landed that 4th round right hand that had Davis' shoulders slumping immediately before he toppled to his back. Davis won the 1st round as he forced Melendez to back against the ropes, something that happened a couple times and shouldn't happen to a taller fighter, but at the end of the 2nd he found a home for a counter right uppercut, then blistered him with it the whole 3rd round — although he dropped Davis with a hooking shot in that round, too. Melendez was chasing a bout with Alfredo Angulo last year, but with the way he's looked and how lackluster Angulo has looked of late, I doubt Angulo would want it. I do want more Melendez ASAP, though.