Story by: Chip Mitchell (reporting ringside)
WBA World welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman Jr came off a long layoff to score a 12-round majority decision over Josesito Lopez Saturday night in front of 9,623 fans at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Thurman appeared to have no ring-rust early on as he dropped Lopez with a sweeping left hook in the second round. Both combatants (similar to Felix Trinidad/Fernando Vargas) simultaneously exchanged left hooks, with Thurman’s landing quicker and more accurately. Thurman threw a two-punch combination, took a half-step back, and as Josesito came in, he was dropped to his knees. Lopez took a seven-count from referee Steve Willis and survived Thurman’s rally in the final 12 seconds of the round.
At this point, many ringside felt as if the shopworn Lopez- loser by knockout to Saul Alvarez, Lucas Matthysse, and Andre Berto- would fold sometime during the next stanza.
Instead, “The Riverside Rocky” held his ground and came forward for most of the third, while Thurman decided to move. Lopez scored a nice left hook to Thurman’s head and there were nice exchanges by the combatants in the final minute of the third.
Thurman won his share of the next few rounds as he seemed to be a bit conservative with his output. While he certainly had a footwork advantage that threw Lopez off his game for much of the fight, he didn’t display the explosiveness on his punches as is his hallmark.
Lopez had a big seventh round as he caught Thurman with a left hook against the ropes. A big right hand followed that snapped Thurman’s head back. Thurman went on the move, using the entire ring as Lopez gave chase. Lopez threw everything, including the kitchen sink- but Thurman survived without getting knocked down. The Fight Journal score the round 10-8 for Lopez as a Thurman late rally wasn’t enough to merit a better score.
The remaining rounds involved more movement from Thurman and both combatants throwing hit-and-miss bombs and combinations periodically. As the final two rounds occurred, Thurman seemed as gassed as he was relieved that the final bell sounded.
Scorecards were 113-113, 115-111, and 117-109 which was a bit wide in my opinion.
The win sets up a possible rematch with Shawn Porter should he beat Yordenis Ugas in March. Thurman also mentioned interest in a showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
When asked about Pacquiao, Thurman said, “I feel good. I would most likely definitely take the Manny Pacquiao fight.”
“Maybe Brooklyn. Maybe Vegas. Wherever Manny Pacquiao wants it. I’d either fight him in the Philippines if I have to.”
Thurman moves to 29-0, with 22 KOs. Lopez drops to 36-8 (19).
Additional quotes from both fighters:
In the most exciting fight of the night, “Big” Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs) proceeded to stake his claim for a shot at the big boys as he scored a sensational second round TKO of Gerald Washington (19-3-1, 12 KOs).
There was no feeling out as these two big men went after it from the opening bell. Both fighters threw homerun punches in the first and landed. Kownacki’s punches had more force and drove Washington back. Both fighters exchanged, with Washington in trouble and on the defensive. Kownacki’s punches were being thrown from every angle imaginable.
Sometime during the action, Kownacki (with thousands of screaming followers in red t-shirts) suffered a small cut over his left eye. No problem, keep working.
In the second, Kownacki threw a left body shot, left hook to the head, a right to the head to back Washington up, followed by a big right to the chin that wobbled Washington badly. Washington ran to the ropes and another big right dropped him.
Washington struggled to get up, fell back, and finally got up at the count of nine. His legs were shot and referee Harvey dock inexplicably let the fight continue. When Dock asked Washington to take a few steps to the right, he was off balance. Somehow Dock, possibly second-guessing himself for prior premature stoppages, allowed the action to continue.
Many on press row, including this writer, were yelling for Dock to end the madness before Washington got hurt. It fell on deaf ears and action continued. Kownacki walked in and landed a double right hand and Dock stepped in to stop it. Thank goodness because it could’ve been much worse for Washington had it continued.
In a WBC World featherweight eliminator, Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs) won a twelve round unanimous decision over Claudio Marrero (23-3, 17 KOs).
In the first two rounds, “King Tut” Nyambayar came out hard after Marrero, much to the pleasure of hundreds of his countrymen.
In the third, Marrero started with a nice combination. Tut landed a nice body-body-uppercut followed by a big overhand right. Marrero feinted being hurt, ala Meldrick Taylor vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, potentially fooling the official scorekeepers. A follow-up volley by Tut ended with a big uppercut and right hand that staggered Marrero as he backed straight out.
In the fourth a nice lead left by Marrero landed as he chased early, but after an exchange of body shots a nice right by Tut landed. Tut landed Juan Manuel Marquez-like counters and combinations throughout.
The fifth began with a big combo to start for Marrero. a one-two by Tut scored nicely. Marrero landed a very nice looping right hand at about 1:40 of the round. At this point I noticed neither fighter threw a convincing jab up until this point. Both combatants chose to use the jab as a range-finder and not as a scoring shot.
In the sixth, Marrero, out of options at this point IMO, began to throw his jab with more authority, He began to take chances as he mixed it up, but Tut got the better of the action.
Tut, fighting off the back foot most of the fight, began to play stalker early in the seventh round. Later in the round as Tur backed to the ropes, he landed a triple left strike combo to Marrero.
The only action of note in the eighth round was Gerry Cooney on press row staring down a fox as she walked to her seat ringside.
In the ninth stanza, Marrero, who favors Kevin Kelley, ironically continued with his Naseem Hamed Matrix defense displayed throughout the fight.
In the tenth, the referee deducted a point from Marrero for hitting during the break. I’m not so sure that was the case Later in the round, Marrero was hit with a low blow, which he played up as long as he could to take a period of rest.
In the eleventh round, a double punch scored for both, with Marrero getting the best of it. In the final round, Tut began celebrating with about a half-minute to go as he cruised to victory.
Score were 115-113, 115-112, and 116-111 for Nyambayar. The scores were closer than the ringside eye-test.
The Fight Journal scored it 119-108.
Quotes from both fighters: