Erislandy Lara vs Delvin Rodriguez & Artur Beterbiev vs Alexander Johnson
BY KID HERSH
PBC on Spike for Friday Night Lights Out from Chicago. First up was Artur Beterbiev (8-0, 8ko's) vs Alexander Johnson (16-2, 7ko's). Nothing of note happened in the first round, with Beterbiev looking to catch Johnson off guard but Johnson was giving respect to the power of Beterbiev. In the coming rounds Beterbiev was being very patient while Johnson was trying to establish himself with body shots and his jab - which he got going better in the third round. Beterbiev, on the other hand, was picking his spots carefully and looks to me like he is just waiting for the right time to turn up the heat. He is landing good shots occasionally - such as the big right hand about thirty seconds into the fourth round - but he has been unable to follow up on shots like it thus far because Johnson will either dart out of range or fall in and clinch. It was in this round that Beterbiev started to turn up the heat and had good success backing Johnson into the ropes to end the round. So, as the fifth round starts, this is new territory for Beterbiev - who has never been past four! The new territory for Beterbiev proved to be no problem at all, as he battered Johnson around the ring following a mid round knockdown (from only a stiff jab!). Beterbiev has very, very good natural power from both hands and now his stamina is looking pretty solid despite some people wondering what he can do, since he has never been past four. Well - I think that is much like the case in Deontay Wilder this year where we had no reason to doubt him because he has never been gassed to our eyes yet. Not to mention he has over 300 amateur fights in his background. Does that equal championship stamina? Of course not. But does that mean he can go past four rounds as a pro? Probably, lol. In any case only the ropes were holding up Johnson two minutes into the fifth round, where a second knockdown was scored. He surprisingly recouped like the veteran he is and made it through the rounds while being nearly out on his feet. Beterbiev took the sixth round mostly off, likely because he saw Johnson coming out very aggressive but knows that he cannot keep that up for the rest of the fight after the beating he has taken so far. He then turned up the heat in the seventh round and got the stoppage after an initial knockdown about a minute in that did not look very devastating but then followed it up with a right hook to the temple that crumpled Johnson down to the canvas, with the referee (Mark Nelson) immediately stopping the fight due to how he looked while going down.
Before the main event they paid homage to referee Frank Cappuccino who recently passed away, giving him a final ten count.
In the first round the story was aaaallllll Lara's straight left hand. He simply could not miss with it, and was tagging Delvin time after time with it, with no answer at all. His face was reddening up and this simply cannot continue if DRod wants to make it a longer night. In the second round Lara was really pumping the jab more. He was throwing less straight lefts but that was likely also due to Delvin's stunted output. Rodriguez also made some adjustments on positioning so that Lara's left hand would not land at the same frequency but he still cannot land a single thing against the elusive Cuban. In the third round Lara was looking brilliant as he started unloading right hooks with accuracy. Two minutes into the round he landed a beautiful combination that looked like it wobbled Rodriguez's legs for the first time in the fight. It was cruise control for Lara until the sixth round, where right as Tarver was talking to Ronnie Shields about Lara having a scintillating performance to put him in with the big names, and Shields responding that he is not going to change his fighter - who likes to set up his shots and that the KO will come - he landed a beautiful left hand that he stepped into with full force with only about twenty seconds left in the round. The shot thudded home, snapping Rodriguez's head back and knocking him down on his rear. He rose, and with some help from the referee (waiting and pushing the men back) the round ended with no time left for Lara to press further. It was more cruise control for Lara until the end of the eighth round, when he landed another hard and sharp left hand that nearly put Rodriguez down. This is Lara's style; he isn't going to go for the knockout but instead let it come. It can be maddening at times but really everyone knows what to expect with him. I see him pressing it late and getting it, he just wants to make absolutely sure he does not get caught with anything, waiting for DRod to break down further. It was more cruise control for Lara, with Jimmy Smith commenting late in the tenth round that Rodriguez was talking to Lara but he couldn't hear what he was saying. To that, Antonio Tarver quipped "Sit still - let me hit ya!" All too true!!! Going into the eleventh round Lara was landing his power shots at over a 60% clip, which is of course pure insanity. Commentator Jimmy Smith said that if you push a heavy-bag and try to hit it you will not land at that high of a rate - again, just like Tarvers quote, not too far off lol. In the twelfth and final round Lara put a closing to the masterpiece he has weaved, by again hurting Rodriguez but letting him off the hook instead of going for the knockout. So wait, is this really a masterpiece as the commentators are saying along with other boxing fans? I am not so sold either. Great showing but he did what he was supposed to do here, aside from take his man out. And while he is not necessarily "supposed to" take DRod out, one would think that with the landslide of punches he landed and how many levels higher he is than his opponent he would indeed take him out. But, again, as I said earlier, that is just not Lara's style.