In the main event of Saturday’s “Premier Boxing Champions” card on CBS, junior welterweight Omar Figueroa, Jr. hammered out a bruising unanimous decision victory over Ricky Burns. The fighters mostly went at it in the tiniest phone booth you’ll ever find, trading shots while trying to smother and sap each other’s energy.
Burns (37-5-1, 11 KO) started out strong. He used his jab and chopping right hand to fend off Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KO) who jumped in with power shots from both the orthodox and southpaw positions. Burns got the better of the action from a distance, while Figueroa’s body shots and uppercuts seemed to give him the upper hand when they were in close.
And they were in close a lot. The fighters grappled, mauled, and smothered the hell out of each other for all 12 rounds. Fortunately it still made for a very entertaining bout because both guys let their hands go and did some fine inside work.
Figueroa loves to fight, so he had no problem lunging in after Burns, who isn’t known as a hard puncher. Burns was extremely accurate for much of the fight, but Figueroa continued to attack undeterred, and his power punches frequently had the crowd roaring with approval.
After fighting valiantly, Burns finally showed signs of fading in the late rounds. Figueroa seemed to have him badly hurt in the 11th round after landing a hard body shot and then a grenade of a left hook. Figueroa pressed the action early into the 12th, but Burns somehow found a second wind and ended the fight by merrily firing away, landing at will as the bell sounded to end the match.
Of course, the fights were held in Texas, which meant that the main event was refereed by the son of former boxing commission head Dickie Cole. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Laurence Cole is an absolute disaster of a referee. It has become obvious over the years that Cole just can’t seem to figure out how to properly manage a fight. He is either non-existent, as he was when Alfredo Angulo damn near killed Harry Joe Yorgey a few years back, or he’s an over-officious clown. Such was the case tonight.
In between warning Burns for holding, pushing, pulling, or breathing too heavily, he was literally pulling the fighters’ arms off of each other in an utterly dangerous and ridiculous display of ineptitude. He ended up deducting two points from Burns for holding. As it turns out, the two points didn’t’ have any effect on the outcome, but the deductions were given arbitrarily and after repeated warnings that should have never been issued.
The judges had the bout scored 117-109, and two scores of 116-110. While Burns figured to have a very hard time getting a decision in Texas, these scores seemed a bit too wide. TQBR had it a draw, 113-113.
In the opening bout, English bantamweight Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12 KO) eked out a razor-thin unanimous decision victory over Tomoki “My Hair Tho” Kameda. All three judges scored the bout 114-113 for McDonnell. TQBR scored it 115-112 for Kameda.
The fight started out slowly, as both fighters looked to establish their jabs. Kameda (31-1, 19 KO) got the better of the bout early on by landing the harder shots while McDonnell seemed hesitant to let any power punches fly.
McDonnell was having an excellent 3rd round, smacking Kameda and keeping him off balance using basically nothing but his stiff jab, but Kameda nailed McDonnell with a gorgeous overhand right with about a minute left, dropping him to the canvas for the first time in his career. He survived the round, and to his credit he made some solid adjustments afterwards.
The biggest adjustment was that he actually got busier, landing right hands and body shots on Kameda, who couldn’t quite land another game-changing punch. McDonnell took over the fight in the middle rounds by staying behind the jab and going to the body, while Kameda tried to load up on power shots.
The last three rounds were fantastic, with both fighters going on the attack. Kameda, perhaps sensing that the fight was close, began backing away and flurrying whenever McDonnell got near him. In what turned out to be the difference maker, McDonnell saved his best round of the fight for last. He stormed after Kameda and bombarded him with everything he had in the 12th. Kameda landed a couple of monster left hooks at the end of the round, but McDonnell took them well and then took the fight on the cards.
While the crowd booed McDonnell heavily, (and McDonnell apparently dropped some curse words that CBS blotted out with 2.3 seconds of weird techno music) there were several very close rounds and the fight proved difficult to score. McDonnell threw nearly 400 more punches, but Kameda’s shots were generally harder and more effective, including that massive right hand that scored him the only knockdown of the fight. We’d be totally fine watching these guys go at it again.
(Photo: Figueroa, right, unloads on Burns as referee Laurence Cole watches on, via PBC)