Not enough can be said about how solid and exciting the cards on Spike have been this year, and whether that has been on purpose or on accident, it regardless has been a pleasure to watch: and tonight was no different.
In the main event, we saw a battle for a vacant IBF lightweight title between Rances Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs) and Denis Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KOs), a fight which saw Barthelemy collect his second title in as many weight classes by earning a unanimous decision victory by scores of 119-109, and 116-112 X2.
From the moment the opening bell rang, the size difference between the two was impossible to ignore. Rances had a five-inch height and reach advantage over the Russian, who is trained by Abel Sanchez, something Barthelemy exploited early on in the fight.
Barthelemy used his jab effectively in the first two rounds against the shorter man, but that was short lived, as Rances forget about the jab in the following rounds, and it cost him. For some strange reason, he wanted to fight Denis’ fight: a brawl in the center of the ring.
Shafikov made the most of this opportunity, out landing the Cuban by landing combinations, while Rances, for the most part, landed single shots and did not follow up with anything else. Barthelemy was standing awfully square to Shafikov on the inside, which may have taken the steam out of his punches.
Towards the middle of the fight, Barthelemy went back to the jab and began to find success once again. After taking control of the fight in the middle stages, Shafikov suffered a cut from a Barthelemy punch on his left eyelid. As a result, in the following round, Rances went after the cut hard, landing his straight left hand at will on the inflicted area.
Shafikov showed composure by not selling out after sustaining the cut on his left eyelid. The entire left side of his face was red, as well, from several straight left hands by Rances. In the final three rounds, it was all Barthelemy, who seemed to catch a second wind, using his feet much more than he did in the beginning of the fight.
He constantly kept his hands down low, and popped the jab and moved around the ring against the bloodied Shafikov, who sensed that he needed a knockout in the final round, but simply couldn’t muster up enough of anything to even alert Rances, who danced and showboated plenty in the final round.
The result was correct, but the one judge who had the fight scored 119-109 needs to be evaluated because this fight was no way that wide. Barthelemy in the middle of the fight forgot who he was as a fighter: a slick boxer who uses his jab and is not known for his power, and he soon realized that in the second half of the fight.
He tried to fight Shafikovs fight for a few rounds and, as a result, seemed to lose those rounds, by getting outworked. It was overall a decent performance from Rances, who will need to be more careful in exchanges with bigger punchers down the road and will need to continue to make guys fight his fight. Thaboxingvoice had it 115-113 for Rances.
In the first fight of the night, highly touted Floyd Mayweather Jr protégé Gervonta Davis (14-0, 13 KOs) remained undefeated, as he scored a ninth round knockout over Mexican Luis Sanchez (17-5-1, 5 KOs) in what turned out to be “Tank’s” toughest test as a pro.
Davis stated off cautiously, waiting for his opponent to come to him so he could land one of his vicious left hands, but Sanchez fought an intelligent fight, and actually won a round or two in the process. Davis became a bit inactive in the middle of the fight, but in the eighth round, scored an impressive knockdown on Sanchez, putting him down with two back to back left-hand uppercuts.
In the next round, Davis scored a knockout of the year candidate, landing a straight left hand on Sanchez that appeared to break his nose, and put him down and out with blood all over the canvas. Davis right before he threw the punch crouched down, and almost brought his left hand from the floor.
Davis did show some defensive flaws, relying on athleticism alone to avoid punches, which will not always work at the world-class level. He got hit with some solid shots but was never hurt or wobbled, a sign of how good Davis’ chin is, or the fact that Sanchez is not a power puncher, only hvingd 5 knockouts in 23 fights. At the time of the stoppage, Thaboxingvoice had Davis up 78-73.
The second fight of the night saw two undefeated super welterweights battle it out in what turned out to be an excellent action fight. Eric Walker (12-0, 6 KOs) pulled off the upset against Floyd Mayweather fighter Chris Pearson (13-1, 11 KOs) by scores of 80-72, 79-71, and 78-74 in an eight round fight.
The first half of the fight was all Walker. He was the aggressor, landing clean crisp punches as Pearson wore earmuffs for the majority of the time not trying to avoid any of the shots being thrown at him. In the fourth round, Pearson was on the verge of getting stopped, as Walker had him badly hurt with a variety of punches.
But, to Pearson’s credit, he remained on his feet, and actually appeared to hurt Walker at the end of the round. Pearson started to take advantage of the fatigued Walker in the 5th and 6th rounds, but it was too little too late. Walker regained his composure in the final two rounds after slowing down in the previous two. The uppercut was Walkers primary weapon during this fight, hurting Pearson with it early in the fight, and again later in the fight.
Walker, who spent time in prison and was overjoyed and overcome with emotion by the win, had this to say after the fight, “I had watched his previous fights and knew that my right hand would be too much for him and that I could land it anytime…My conditioning was really the difference tonight. I was in great shape and I was able to rely on that when the going got tough.”
Pearson did not have much to say, on the other hand, claiming that he believed the fight was much closer than the cards indicated, but crediting Walker for landing clean, crisp punches on him all night that did not allow him to get going.
This fight was fun to watch throughout, highlighted by back and forth exchanges, and both men constantly wobbling one another. Walker earned the unanimous decision victory, as he was the fighter from the opening bell who seemed to want it more. Thaboxingvoice had the fight 77-75 for Walker.
The co-main event ended in bizarre fashion. Isiah Thomas (15-0, 6 KOs) and Murat Gassiev (22-0, 16 KOs) did not get to complete their cruiserweight IBF title eliminator bout due to an accidental punch landing after the bell in the third round that hurt Thomas and was ruled unable to continue by the ringside doctor and referee Jay Nady.
The fight saw Thomas controlling it early on, using his jab and straight left hands to score consistently on the Russian fighter, who is trained by Abel Sanchez. It was clear early on however that Thomas’ punches were not hurting Gassiev, but when Gassiev landed he caught the attention of the southpaw who trains out of the Kronk gym.
The end of the third round saw the accidental foul occur when Gassiev landed a shot on Thomas along the ropes which hurt him, but the second punch landed well after the bell, knocking Thomas’ head back as he wobbled back into his corner, badly hurt.
After the fight, both men seemed upset with the premature stoppage. Gassiev stated, “I felt very good for the three rounds, I was cutting off the ring and hurting him. I’m confident that I would have stopped him.”
Thomas made his response short and sweet, “I would have won this fight, he fouled me and they stopped it.”
It was a tough call to make by Nady, but it was the right call. It would not be fair to Thomas if he came back out in the next round hurt, and got stopped, losing his first professional fight. The foul occurred early enough in the fight that a rematch could happen sooner rather than later. Thaboxingvoice had Thomas winning all three rounds, up 30-27.