Sunday, February 17, 2013

Broner electrifies, tops Rees in AC

Adrien Broner after his win  courtesy of Golden Boy
By John McMullen

ATLANTIC CITY - Gavin Rees' nickname happens to be "The Rock" but the dynamic Adrien Broner wasn't about to play the role of jabroni on Saturday night.

In fact it's the charismatic Broner who has far more in common with the better known "Rock," Hollywood mega-star and WWE champion Dwyane Johnson.

Broner (26-0, 22 KOs), 23, remained undefeated and defended his WBC lightweight crown with a fifth round knockout of the competent but overmatched Rees in front of 4,812 at Boardwalk Hall.

Rees (37-2-1) proved to be game, even pushing the pace early but Broner's superior hand speed eventually took over and Rees was sent to the canvas twice before eventually buckling to a withering body blow in the fifth. As he continued to take more punishment, Rees' trainer, Gary Lockett, waived a white towel and referee Earl Brown called for the stoppage.

"I disagree with Gary pulling me out, but he knew I would have fought until I was knocked out cold,” Rees said. “(Broner's)  the best I’ve been in with. He’s not a superstar in the making, he’s already there.”

Broner, who outlanded Rees 105-44 in power shots over the final three rounds of the fight, is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in the sport and lit up the Atlantic City crowd with his flamboyant style, reminiscent of Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I knew he was going to be powerful. But his power really stunned me,’’ Rees said.

Broner knocked out Argentina's Vicente Martin Rodriguez in three rounds back in November of 2011 to win the WBO 130-pound championship and "The Problem" has taken off from there. The Cincinnati native scored a spectacular fourth round TKO win over the previously unbeaten Eloy Perez in February of
last year before stopping former U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo in July. Broner finished 2012 by moving up to lightweight and winning his second world championship by defeating WBC kingpin Antonio De Marco at Boardwalk Hall before defending tonight.

Rees, a former WBA super lightweight titleist, was coming in with 11 consecutive wins since the lone previous loss of his career in 2008 against former world champ Andriy Kotelnik.

“I had to see how much gas was left in that Toyota. I don’t care what they put in front of me, I’ll fight him,’’ Broner said. “He kept coming through every shot like it was his best shot. I knew he would hang. He’s a world-class fighter. He’s tougher than a steak that’s been well done."

The semifinal of the evening was a title eliminator for Andre Ward's WBC super middleweight title with second-ranked Sakio "The Scorpion" Bika (31-5-2) dominating the previously unbeaten and number one rated contender Nikola Sjekloca (25-1) en route to an easy 12-round unanimous decision..

The bout, which was moved up on the card when the sequel between Johnathon Banks and Seth Mitchell was postponed due to Banks' broken thumb suffered in training, figured to be the classic boxer vs. puncher duel.

Sjekloca, who hails from Montenegro, was making his U.S. debut and was regarded as a skilled fighter who lacks power, amassing just seven knockouts in 25 chances. Nonetheless, the 34-year-old Sjekloca, who has been a professional since 2006, has been dominant in Europe, using his skill to win the WBC International and WBC Mediterranean titles.Bika, on the other hand, was regarded as a punishing puncher, compiling three times the number of KOs Sjekloca has in 37 total fights.  The 2000 Olympian for Cameroon who also won NBC's boxing reality show "The Contender" in 2007, Bika has been regarded as one the world's best for years.

In the end Bika proved to be the better fighter and about the only thing Sjekloca showed was the toughness to take a beating and the fact that his foes across the pond were vastly overrated.

Bika pitched a virtual shutout and won the three scorecards, 119-109, 118-112 and 120-108. He threw 889 punches to just 466 from his opponent and connected on a higher percentage, 35 percent to 29.

Despite that Sjekloca seemed satisfied with his performance.

"It was my first big fight in America," he said. "The fighters are better over here and more prepared. I think I got more good shots on him than he did on me. I lost my game plan a bit."

Sjekloca did land 45 percent of his power punches, about the only statistical advantage he had in the fight. That said Nikola only tried 150 to 368 for Bika, who landed 39 percent of his power blows and a total of 145 to just 67 for the loser.

Neither fighter figures to be a legitimate threat to Ward.

In a lackadaisical fight third from the top Philadelphia's Demetrius Hopkins (33-2-1, 13 KOs) won the USBA junior middleweight championship by beating 39-year-old Charles Whittaker (39-14-2).

D-Hop remained unbeaten since moving to 154 pounds, adding the late-blooming Whittaker, who couldn't answer the bell for the seventh round, to a list that also includes Doel Carrasquillo and Joshua Snyder.

Whittaker, who had won 15 of his last 16 coming in, was floored once by an overhand right in the fourth round and was roundly booed after the fight for his effort.

Edner Cherry (31-6-2, 17 KO's), a former world title challenger at 140 pounds. is making his return to the junior lightweight division count. Cherry won his eighth straight bout since returning to the lighter division by upsetting Escobedo (26-4), a 2004 U.S. Olympian making his first start since his setback to Broner last July, by TKO at the end of the sixth round.

A pair of "Cherry Bombs" proved to be the difference. A solid right late in the second round sent Escobedo to the canvas but the timing helped the California native and gave him time to recover in between frames. Cherry certainly won the third round but Escobedo slowly regained his legs and seemed to be back in the fight by the fourth. That all changed with one crippling left hook late in the sixth. Escobedo was able to get back to his feet again but history didn't repeat itself as Cherry swarmed his dazed opponent and the
referee called things just as the bell rung.

Olympian Jamel Herring opened the night with his second straight professional victory, a third round TKO over Carlos Lopez in a junior welterweight bout. Herring (2-0, 1 KO), who represented the United States at the 2012 London Olympics, was far too quick for Lopez (4-3), a San Juan, Puerto Rico native.

Herring controlled the pace and was able to cut off the ring, stalking Lopez from the opening bell, A solid left midway through the third round nearly put Lopez away but a lost mouthpiece gave him a few extra seconds and he was able to survive the frame. The break was short-lived, however, as the ringside doctor waived things off before the final stanza.

In other undercard action, Toledo lightweight Robert Easter Jr. (3-0, 3 KO's) stayed unbeaten in his young career with a first round TKO win over Jose Valderrama (3-3). Easter quickly opened up a cut over Valderrama's left eye seconds into the fight and it was waived off before the second round began.

Bantamweight prospect Rau'Shee Warren (3-0, 1 KO), a three-time U.S. Olympian, had a glorified training session against Richard Hernandez, who dropped his sixth straight fight and has yet to win as a professional. Warren stunned Hernandez with a straight right late in the first round before sending him to the canvas twice with left hooks in the second.

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