Rances Barthelemy vs Denis Shafikov, Murat Gassiev vs Isiah Thomas, Chris Pearson vs Eric Walker, Gervonta Davis vs Sanchez
BY KID HERSH
PBC on Spike from Las Vegas at the Palms Casino. First up is Gervonta Davis (13-0, 12ko's) vs Luis Sanchez (17-4-1, 5ko's). Davis was pressing in the first round, looking to set up power shots and find openings on Sanchez. Sanchez was not flustered but also could not find the mark on Davis, despite Davis always being in range but having good footwork and body movement to be too slippery - and fast - for him to hit. In the second round Davis really turned it on, dropping his hands and showing great reflexes and hand speed by picking off Sanchez on counters by luring him in with no defense. He was getting caught here and there but was clearly in control. Sanchez, meanwhile, stayed very composed and is not getting hurt by any of Davis's shots. It looks like his game plan is to take the prospect into the late rounds to drag him into deep waters but the problem so far is that the fight is being fought at Davis's pace and I don't see him getting tired at this rate. The third round saw both fighters unloading their arsenal as Davis came into range even closer, really sitting down on his shots and looking to put Sanchez out. Sanchez was hurt a couple of times - mostly from left hands - but still stayed veery composed himself and landed some good counters also, snapping back Davis's head a couple of times although not really slowing down Davis at all. This Is a good pace to test Davis's stamina though if he can stay in the fight. The fourth round saw a bit of a lull in the action - looking to me like Sanchez was taking some control of the fight as he kept Davis on the outside and tentative to throw - I think tired from going all out the previous round. Floyd could be seen coaching his young fighter from the sidelines in every single round to this point midway through the fight. Davis did take control back over in the fifth round but he still isn't quite as dominant as he was early on, looking like he is regaining some stamina little by little as he goes (it's not easy to see - he looks ok but clearly his work rate is cut since the third round). For the next few rounds Davis would maintain control while Sanchez was trying to change it up, coming forward and lightly pressing at times but finding Davis's footwork far too quick and agile to deal with in closing the distance to land punches. In the eighth round Davis upped the work rate midway through the round, upset about clashes of heads that continually occurred, and landed an uppercut with less than a minute left in the round that dropped Sanchez for the first time in the fight. Sanchez made it through the round, but just barely, as Bayless was close to stopping the fight from Sanchez taking a lot of punishment while staying up on his feet. Davis would then bide his time in the ninth round until almost two minutes in he landed one of those beautiful uppercuts of his (his last fight coming from one also in a highlight reel style KO). The uppercut landed like a shotgun blast, with all of his weight behind it and it being coiled up like a rattlesnake striking at just the right time. It blasted home with a sickening thud and broke Sanchez's nose and left him on the canvas, flat on his stomach, and not getting up any time soon. Davis will no doubt be the most talked about youngster in the game after this second consecutive highlight reel knockout combined with his natural skills and abilities.
Next up was Chris Pearson (16-0, 11ko's) vs Eric Walker (11-0, 6ko's). In the first round Pearson came out aggressive but quickly settled down as Walker got to work, getting his accurate punches off first and turning around Pearson, causing him to be befuddled and not able to get his punches off or find the target as Waker is light on his feet and accurate with his shots while being unpredictable. Walker continued this success in the second round, expending tons of energy in staying busy and putting some power on his shots while using his legs to dart around. One wonders if he can keep this pace up but it is a smart game plan anyways because he is easily taking these rounds in what is only an eight round fight. Pearson made his presence known in the third round but still is having a very hard time controlling the wild Hunter who appears to be fighting as if this is the fight of his life (great way to do it on the big stage against a guy that is supposed to beat you!). Pearson managed to trap Walker on the ropes for the first time in the fight but still was getting outworked despite having success in cornering his man finally. It turned into a battle of wills between the two undefeated fighters in the four round, with Walker hurting Pearson with a hard right hand two minutes into the round. Walker unloaded, trying to take him out, but was not landing anything of note while he wass head hunting and loading up with predictable shots. Pearson was able to gather his senses after Walker punches himself out and he landed a good shot on Walker near the end of the round as neither man would give in and call it quits with everything on the line for their futures. The fifth round was one ofo the best rounds I have seen this year and a prime example of a couple of young undefeated prospects gunning it out with everything they have in an attempt to lay it all on the line for the win. They slugged it out back and forth, with ebb and flow action, landing body shots and head shots and both men coming back after being buzzed or hurt as their brain snapped them out of it, saying no I will not lose! Down the stretch it was still an extremely great fight, both undefeated fighters slugging it out and not backing down one inch in one of the best prospect fights I have ever seen. The cards came in a wide UD, with one even being a shutout victory for Walker in this big upset fight. Walker spent 13 years in prison and this is one of those touching boxing stories where he worked hard, had nothing to look forward to other than dedicating himself to the toughest sport in the world, and now is on the map and set for some paydays after his big upset and hard work.
Next up is Murat Gassiev (22-0, 16ko's) vs Isiah Thomas (15-0, 6ko's). Another battle of undefeated's here with Abel Sanchez's hotand fast-rising cruiserweight prospect in Gassiev fighting Thomas, who is an unknown but supposedly one of Emmanuel Steward's last fighters he was training before his death a few years back. This fight is a twelve rounder as both men are looking for a title shot. In PBC fashion they don't say which eliminator this is for though, as they do not recognize individual titles on their programs - never saying what belt organization the title is by name. In the first round Gassiev was following Thomas around the ring but nobody was landing much of note, Gassiev not unloading yet and Thomas just keeping his man at range with jabs and pawing. In the second round Gassiev unloaded an overhand right that buzzed Thomas, who clinched to clear his head from the shot. Gassiev appears to be making this fight harder on himself than need be, as he is following Thomas around the ring and not pulling the trigger - even after hurting his man early in the second. He also is not putting any body work in the bank, and Thomas's mmid-section is awfully soft looking! In the third round Thomas was still blunting the work rate of Gassiev throughout the round, rolling with his punches and jabbing and keeping distance just enough to prevent Gassiev from getting in to do serious damage. At the very end of the round though Gassiev landed some right hands that looked like they nearly put Thomas out on the ropes when a first right hand buzzed him hard and then Gassiev landed a late right hand just after the bell rang that snapped Thomas's head back wards violently. He staggered back to his corner and told referee Jay Nady that he could not continue - prompting a no contest for the fight due to the punch being late.
Next up was main event Rances Barthelemy (23-0, 13ko's) vs Denis Shafikov (36-1-1, 19ko's). The size difference between these two men is huge - with Barthelemy towering over Shafikov by five inches and having even more than that amount in reach advantage. Barthelemy did exactly what we expected him to do in the first round - keep Shafikov on the outside and hit him with shots while he was coming in. Barthelemy would continue his success until in the third round he drug into an inside war type of a fight, closing out the round trading shots with the much smaller man instead of using his advantages. Barthelemy is such a slow puncher and his shots so long with his reach and length that Shafikov was having great success at the end of the round and looked like he even hurt Barthelemy with a right hand to end the round. Barthelemy would continue this type of fight for the coming rounds, puzzling and perplexing the viewing audience by throwing away his advantages and losing ring generalship and also rounds as he got beat o the punch by the smaller and stockier man while standing right in front of him and looping slow hooks at him. Antonio Tarver would quip in the sixth round "if you have seen one round, you have seen them all" - which does accurately describe this fight so far, with neither man showing a faster rate of wearing down than the other while trading punches in a telephone booth. Midway through the fight and both fighters have thrown and landed at nearly an identical rate - making the rounds hard to pick a winner and loser between the shorter and crisper shots of Shafikov or the long, looping, but heavier shots of Barthelemy. Barthelemy did open a cut just above the right eye on Shafikov in the closing minute of the seventh round. In the eighth round it was either the blood in the right eye of Shafikov or the superior conditioning of Barthelemy that swung the control to the Cuban's favor greatly. He thudded home power shots on the Russian and further mauled his right eye - opening the cut more and more as the round went on and causing the ringside doctor to take a look at it near the en of the round as it poured out into his eye and down his entire face - turning his trunks from white to crimson. Barthelemy would continue his surge in the coming rounds, with the fighters looking very arm weary and tired from the high-output fight. Barthelemy would offer some different looks in the ninth and tenth rounds, going back to using his length (finally!) and even dropping his hands at range in the tenth to show that Shafikov couldn't reach him. That style did not last long however - because Barthelemy isn't a speed demon himself and was getting tagged so he put his guard back up for the eleventh round. Shafikov kept his work rate high for the championship rounds, looking like he wanted the vacant IBF title ever so badly, but just couldn't work his way effectively despite pressing hard and moving his hands well. Barthelemy would win the wide/clear UD, which he deserved, but no shame on Shafikov for this fight as he made a real fight of it and gave Barthelemy a competitive fight that was fun to watch.