In a battle of undefeated junior welterweights, it was WBO Champion Tim Bradley who proved himself the cream of the crop when he outclassed Lamont Peterson for twelve rounds in defense of his crown.
Bradley and Peterson knew one another from their days as amateurs, and thus both were respectful of the other coming into the fight. Knowing the high-risk, low-reward opponent before him, Bradley admitted that Peterson was not a fight he wanted to take, but Peterson was the mandatory challenger to his title and Bradley was determined to present himself as a fighting champion.
Fighting on what equated to his home turf of Rancho Mirage for the second fight in a row, Bradley not only went through with the defense but put on the best performance of his career.
The fight began at a fast pace, with Bradley banging away at the body and Peterson more than willing to fight inside with him. But Peterson seemed to be much better off fighting from a distance, where he boxed behind his jab and scored with long straight right hands. After being warned by Referee Pat Russell for landing a low blow, Bradley stepped in and cracked Peterson with a huge counter right hand that slammed the challenger’s head aside.
Peterson was stunned as Bradley fired at him with both hands with a minute remaining in the round. But between Bradley slipping momentarily on the canvas and Peterson clinching well, the challenger managed to stay on his feet through the round.
Early in round two, Peterson demonstrated his defensive prowess when he dodged seven punches in a row from Bradley. Undeterred, Bradley took advantage of Peterson’s offensive inactivity by landing body shots and another hard right that turned Peterson’s head and had him on unsteady legs once more.
Bradley finished strong in the last minute of the round, blasting Peterson with two more big right hands – the second of which slammed his head sideways and saw him stumble back several paces. Peterson tried to clinch as he had done in round one but ate left hooks and right hands from Bradley. The champion ended his rally with an uppercut and two left hooks and looked to be on his way to a shocking early knockout.
Implored by his corner to engage Bradley, Peterson marched forward in round three and caught a right hand over the top of the head a minute in. The blow – just barely legal – forced Peterson to a knee, but he pushed himself back to his feet before Russell could count to three.
Peterson fought well for the remainder of the round, landing solid left hooks and right hands to the head of Bradley as they traded in close quarters. Obeying the advice of his career, Peterson stood toe-to-toe with Bradley and got off the better shots for the final minute. Still, with the knockdown working against him, Peterson found himself in a deep hole on the scorecards just three rounds in.
Peterson continued to slug it out with Bradley, trading body shots with him every punch of the way in round four. He only stopped to complain, once to Russell that Bradley was holding him too often and once to shout over Bradley’s shoulder and into the crowd. But the round was close from the bell that began it and may have only been decided when Bradley landed a clean left hook – set up by a not-so-clean clash of heads – at the bell that ended it.
Now cut over his left eye, by a punch according to Russell, Peterson found himself on the receiving end of a combination to the head to begin the fifth round. Bradley capitalized on Peterson’s activity by pot-shotting him a bit. Then, Peterson finally stepped in and slammed Bradley’s head back with his best shot of the fight – a huge right hand. Bradley incredibly stood up to the shot and still deserved to edge the round having built up the points long before the shot.
Never in his career had Bradley looked like more of a complete fighter than in round six. Using fluid movement, he circled Peterson, mixing in lead hooks to the head and well-placed jabs to the body. He even turned southpaw to keep Peterson guessing and later wound up his glove as if to suggest he was in a position to do whatever he wanted at that moment in the fight.
Coming into the bout, those picking Peterson to win pointed to his well-schooled jab as a weapon that could pose problems for the champion. Yet it was Bradley who used the jab to control round seven, working behind it to set up hard body shots and hooks to the head, including a right across Peterson’s nose in the final seconds. And, by winning the round, he all but eliminated any chance Peterson had of winning the fight on points.
At the halfway mark of round eight, Bradley countered a jab by clocking Peterson with a right. Another right knocked Peterson’s head aside moments later. But he continued to follow Bradley around the ring, absorbing shots and only catching up to Bradley with his own punches when there was no time left to win the round.
Bradley stayed busy in round nine, outworking Peterson again and getting in some hard punches in spots. Midway through the round, he turned Peterson’s head with a right. With half a minute left, he landed a one-two to the face of Peterson to notch the round.
Peterson had his best round since the fifth in round ten and still appeared to lose it. By covering up and waiting for openings, he allowed himself to be outworked by Bradley for the whole round, and, despite successfully dragging the champion into a brawl in the final thirty seconds, it wasn’t enough time to bag the round or put in the kind of damage he would need to inflict to stop Bradley in the championship rounds.
Unfortunately for Peterson, he was fighting past the tenth round for the first time in his career against a man who showed no signs of slowing and without one-punch knockout power. He showed real grit in coming out and cracking Bradley with a stinging straight right early in round eleven; however, by the end of the round, Bradley was in control, briefly standing Peterson up with a right hand.
A minute into the twelfth and final round, both men had landed two good right hands when they clashed heads – this time, Peterson suffering a cut under his left eye. After that, both fighters became increasingly sloppy as their tanks ran out of gas. They tried to end the fight brawling but missed most of their punches. Bradley again appeared to take the round with his final rally.
At the bell, he walked to the ropes, sticking his chest out and nodding triumphantly to his screaming hometown fans. With his high work rate giving him the benefit of the doubt in otherwise close rounds, Bradley made a case for having pitched a shutout, though the fight was highly entertaining and competitive in spots.
One judge did see it as a shutout at 120-107, while the others turned in scorecards that reflected a still very dominant performance for Bradley at 119-108 and 118-110, giving him the unquestionable unanimous decision.
After sharing a word with Peterson, Bradley credited his performance to Peterson forcing him to be at his best. Peterson, for his part, admitted that Bradley surprised him by pressuring in the early rounds and jumping out to a lead, which, in turn, forced him to chase the champion.
Bradley didn’t bother calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao and instead focused on himself, saying he was willing to fight anyone in his division. There has been talk of Bradley jumping ship to HBO and participating in a four-man tournament featuring WBA Champion Amir Khan, WBC Champion Devon Alexander and rugged brawler Marcos Maidana.
That tournament could actually hurt the career of Peterson as it would see three of the four titles unified and thus make it more difficult for him to land a title shot. Juan Urango is the remaining champion at junior welterweight and holds the IBF version of the title. Against Bradley, Peterson showed the potential to be a very strong fighter in the near future but just wasn’t on par with Bradley, who appears to be the best in the division.
DARCHINYAN FLATTENS ROJAS
In his first fight since losing a unanimous decision to bantamweight Joseph Agbeko, Vic Darchinyan returned to the super flyweight division to defend his WBC and WBA titles against fellow southpaw Tomas Rojas.
With one big shot that ended the fight, Darchinyan again proved himself “Lord of the Flies.”
Rojas got off to a good start, drilling Darchinyan with a hard left hand just seconds in. Darchinyan jabbed his way back into the round and landed a left of his own with a minute left, then caught Rojas with a one-two. Mounting his attack, Darchinyan tagged Rojas with a hard uppercut, followed by a left to the body and one to the head.
Rojas fought back, landing a left in return, then ripped Darchinyan with an uppercut, but Darchinyan kept coming and knocked his head back with a big left hand. Rojas responded by beckoning Darchinyan on for more, but the bell rang to stop the champion from dealing out further punishment.
The battle continued to heat up in round two. Darchinyan landed a left to the side of the head only to walk into a three-punch combination from Rojas. Darchinyan then wound up for a homerun shot that missed, and he stumbled face first into the ropes.
Rojas took a big swing of his own but ended up running his jaw into the top of Darchinyan’s head. Rojas looked to Referee Raul Caiz Jr. a moment, then shook it off by sending a looping left across Darchinyan’s nose and moving the champion back with a left-right combination to the head.
Just as the fight was really heating up, it came to a sudden end. Darchinyan pressured Rojas against the ropes, walking through a right hook to smack a left over the side of Rojas’ head. Darchinyan pushed both gloves against Rojas, then slammed his head back with another left hand.
Rojas stood to his full height and defiantly beckoned Darchinyan on. It would prove to be his last mistake. Trying to duck inside, Rojas moved right into position for a hard left hand across the jaw from Darchinyan. His legs left him, and he collapsed flat on his back, his upper body landing under the ropes.
Rojas leaned his head up but collapsed back against the apron as Caiz issued the count. Caiz stopped after seven and stopped Rojas, who was just beginning to lift his head again.
It was a win Darchinyan badly needed following the second loss of his career. In his post-fight interview, he expressed a desire to avenge his knockout loss to the first man to defeat him, Nonito Donaire. Their first fight was contested at flyweight in the summer of 2007, but both men are now settled into the super flyweight division, and a rematch would pit the best two fighters there against one another.
A dispute between Donaire and his former promoter – and Darchinyan’s current promoter – Gary Shaw kept that rematch from happening sooner, but both parties now appear to want it to happen. Fight fans will be in for yet another treat in what is fast shaping up to be a big 2010 for the sport.