By Anthony Montero: A great night of fights at the Forum in Inglewood California that did not disappoint for those in attendance. The triple header started off with an interesting light heavyweight bout between the hard hitting ‘everyman’ Joe Smith Jr of New York and the well experienced tactician Sullivan Barrera of Miami. Most were expecting this to be a brawl filled with fireworks and knock downs, and the first round was just that.
Smith started out strong, moving forward controlling the distance with his jab and eventually floored Barrera with a vicious sweeping left hook to the head. Those familiar with Smith know he’s a serious puncher. Barrera got up to beat the count, he appeared to be surprised by the Smith‘s power. However Barrera fought on for the rest of the round and fight quite effectively, showing that superior boxing skill and knowledge can overcome extreme power. As the fight continued the action slowed down and it became more of a boxing match. Barrera’s excellent amateur and professional experience was the story of the night, not Smith’s heavy hands. Barrera used intelligent boxing and ring generalship to neutralize Smith’s offense, as well as score himself and pile up points. This was a classic match up between a puncher-boxer and a boxer-puncher, where the latter was simply too skilled and disciplined to be lured into a brawl and abandon his game plan. Barrera won arguably every round after the first, securing a unanimous decision victory, and possibly a chance at Sergei Kovalev.
Barrera UD Smith Jr.
The second bout was a super featherweight WBA title fight, and displayed a stark contrast in styles between the slick counter punching Jezreel Corrales of Panama and the come forward seek and destroy Robinson Castellanos of Mexico. From the opening bell it was obvious Corrales was the bigger man, outweighing Castellanos by 10 pounds, and the speed and skill differential between the two was evident. Regardless, Castellanos made it a very close fight, what he lacked in skill he made up for in will, constantly charging forward and throwing bombs every chance he could. Corrales used his superior speed and skill to move about the ring, picking his punches when open and countering Castellanos with his more squared up Mexican style. Corrales was put down in the 3rd due to a low blow, however he still controlled the fight with his effective movement and combination punching. The action really got heated in the 4th when Castellanos scored a flash knock down landing a short straight right to the jaw of Corrales. He bounced up and appeared fine however was dropped a second time badly later in the round by a devastating right hook. The pro Mexican crowd was on its feet chanting “Mexico!!! Mexico!!!” The action inside the ring continued as Castellanos gave his opponent no room to breathe, constantly stalking and throwing punches with bad intentions. Even through he was the smaller man he imposed his will beautifully. The tide appeared to be shifting into Castellanos favor but then suddenly he was floored by a perfect straight left down the pipe. He was visibly hurt but beat the count and made it out of the 7th round. The fight became more sloppy in the later rounds as bother men gave their all in the ring. Unfortunately what was a excellent fight ended prematurely in the beginning of the 10th round due to an accidental head butt from Corrales, creating a deep and worrisome cut just below Castellanos’s eye. The ring doctor was called in to evaluate and after only a few seconds he agreed to stop the contest. It should be noted that the head butt was definitely not intentional, Corrales lunged in while punching just as Castellanos was coming forward, resulting in the cut. Very difficult fight to score, such close rounds with great action between the two, both fighters should be credited for their dedication of body work. The final result was a majority decision for Corrales, one judge scoring it a draw while the other two had it for Corrales. The crowd was not happy with the decision as most in the arena felt Castellanos had done enough to win. Regardless of the outcome, a rematch is in order. With the controversial ending and the scoring possibly going either way depending on what you appreciate, a rematch is necessary for a definitive conclusion. And it’s a safe bet that fans would love to see this epic battle a second time.
Corrales MD Castellanos
The final bout of the evening was a super featherweight WBC title fight between the younger and fresher Miguel Berchelt of Mexico and the hard punching but somewhat faded southpaw Takashi Miura of Japan. This fight started out slower than the previous, much more calculated and cautious. Berchelt used his legs to move around the ring, being sure to stay away from Miura’s left hand, his power punch. Just as the first round was coming to a close, Berchelt landed a flush left hook to Miura’s head, crumbling him to the canvas. The crowd jumped up in a roar again shouting “Mexico!!! Mexico!!!” Miura made it to his feet and survived the round, he absolutely showed a fighters spirit as the bout continued. The next few rounds resembled more of the same with the distance being controlled by Berchelt as he circled the ring and used his longer reach to jab safely from the outside. At times the crowd grew restless and even booed due to the lack of action when compared to the previous two fights. Miura showed much heart and determination stalking forward and throwing thunderous hooks to the body, but not frequently enough. In the later rounds it was obvious that Berchelt was too big, too strong, and too fresh for Miura to do any real damage. Miura certainly tried and showed the will of a warrior throwing caution to the wind and attacking regardless of what was thrown back at him. Berchelt continued to stack up rounds, using his superior foot work and boxing skill to hit and not be hit, essentially Boxing 101. The championship rounds had more action as the fighters seemed to be aware of the crowds disapproval. Miura made a good showing of himself, never quitting and landing solid left hands on occasion, however they didn’t have much effect on the bigger Berchelt. Berchelt went on to win a wide unanimous decision, but this was no easy victory, he certainly earned his win as Miura was game and came to win. In the post fight interview Berchelt stated that he is “ready to fight the best” in the division, does that mean we will soon see a match up against Vasyl Lomachenko? We shall see…