The War Report: Smooth operators (Week 4, 2017)

WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz. Photo credit: German Villasenor

WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz. Photo credit: German Villasenor


Saturday night was a great one for boxing and it featured flavorful match-ups, palatable for any fan of the sport. Knockouts, gruesome wars, the birth of a rivalry, a changing of the guard, confirming that 2017 is off to a good start. No matter your definition of a smooth operator, everyone was given an example of what they like about the Sweet Science.



Fights of the Week


Takashi Miura KO 12 Miguel Roman (130) | Indio, California




“No place for beginners or sensitive hearts.

Sentiment is left to chance.

No place to be ending but somewhere to start.

No need to ask.

He’s a smooth operator”


Miura’s corner had to ask him if he was OK after the sixth round. A straight left hand buckled him toward the end of it and Miura was already showing signs of weariness. The 32-year-old out of Tokyo, Japan was exploited by Roman’s right hand to the body in the first half of the fight and, while neither fighter heeded any defense, the Mexican got the better of the exchanges early on.


Responding to his corner in the seventh round, Miura started to really turn up the heat with his aggressiveness. You could hear him bellowing with seemingly every shot on the “HBO Boxing After Dark” telecast on Saturday night, and every one of the southpaw’s lefts were laced with bad intentions going forward. Roman got stunned in that seventh round but still managed to dislodge Miura’s mouthpiece with a right hand. Already a pretty good fight, Miura-Roman turned into an absolute war.


Junior lightweight Takashi Miura (right) vs. Miguel "Mickey" Roman. Photo credit: HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Junior lightweight Takashi Miura (right) vs. Miguel “Mickey” Roman. Photo credit: HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions


Vying for a world title shot, these two junior lightweights tried to knock each other out for the next three rounds, until Miura changed everything in the final seconds of the 10th. A hammering left hand to Roman’s body was perfectly placed to drop the 31-year-old out of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It didn’t look like he was going to get up from the powerful shot but he quickly rose at the count of seven from referee Tom Taylor. Roman was saved by the bell but, after sustaining knockdowns in the 11th and 12th rounds, he was done for the rest of the fight.


It didn’t come without a tremendous effort by Roman, 56-12 (43), who left Miura with a battered face at fight’s end. Miura, 31-3-2 (24), willed himself to a knockout victory once he landed a flush shot to Roman’s chin 53 seconds into the final round. It was a gutsy performance by both, sometimes resonating a gruesome undertone, thanks to their lack of defense, but Miura-Roman was a competitive slugfest and these two rugged fighters were smooth operators of heart.


Leo Santa Cruz MD 12 Carl Frampton (WBA 126) | Las Vegas, Nevada




Word of Honor: Leo Santa Cruz decisions Carl Frampton


Honorable mention


Steven Butler TKO 7 Brandon Cook (154) | Montreal, Quebec, Canada





KO of the Week


Mikey Garcia KO 3 Dejan Zlaticanin (WBC 130) | Las Vegas, Nevada



“Confuse and lose abuse and bruise the crews
Who choose to use my name wrong, they pay dues.
Destruction from the exterminator.
But in a calm manner, cause I’m a smooth operator”


With a knockout to remember, Garcia amassed an eradicating operation of Zlaticanin. His dominant jab had the southpaw from Montenegro guessing early on and, forced to take chance, a lunging left hand in the final minute of the third round was Dejan’s final punch of the night. Garcia, 36-0 (30), landed a perfect counter uppercut after that left and it stunned Zlaticanin into a delirious moment, in which he bent over face-forward toward the ropes. Garcia stepped to his left and was able to wind up with a right hand in the same moment Zlaticanin faced Garcia upright. That right put Zlaticanin, 22-1 (15), to sleep and he laid there out cold for what seemed a lifetime. Zlaticanin was fine after getting brutally knocked out and Garcia, who had spent time away from the ring for most of the past three years, made a giant splash upon his return.



Honorable mentions


Carlos Takam KO 4 Marcin Rekowski (200+) | Macau, China



Another slumbering. Takam, 34-3-1 (26), a Cameroonian import fighting out of France, hurt Rekowski with a left hand and sent him into a stumble before landing a lethal shot to end the fight. Rekowski, 17-5 (14), was discombobulated, as Takam let his hands go, and a final unseen left hook put him to sleep. The Polish heavyweight belly-flopped onto he canvas and referee Gene Del Bianco immediately yielded for help from the ringside doctor. Takam, 36, climbed the ropes in celebration as he breathes life late into his career.


Erick De Leon KO 4 Jose Salinas (130) | Studio City, California



Lamont Roach Jr. KO 1 Alejandro Valdez (130) | Indio, California



Sadam Ali KO 3 Jorge Silva (147) | Indio, California






Fighters of the Week


Leo Santa Cruz, 33-1-1 (18)


Photo credit: German Villasenor

Photo credit: German Villasenor


“Flow and go to a slow tempo and you know
Sing ho, swing low, then yo, the show
Will go on, as I perform
“Transformin’ onstage like a Decepticon”


Vengeance was served by Santa Cruz Saturday night after making the proper adjustments to outbox Carl Frampton in the rematch of their 2016 “Fight of the Year” candidate. Santa Cruz got the majority decision nod (115-113 twice, 114-114), the same result in Frampton’s favor last July. This one was closer than Frampton’s win, however, but Santa Cruz kept his innate drive to get in a brawl in check.


“My head was telling me to go forward and pressure him but my dad and corner were telling me to box him,” said the 28-year-old Mexican-American. “That’s what I had to do. I always fight for the fans but, tonight, I fought for myself too.”


Santa Cruz, who regained the WBA featherweight title, even felt compelled to apologize for not bringing the fight his Mexican fans so dearly love. His apology, however, was unwarranted and Santa Cruz proved he’s no one-trick pony in the ring, The rubber match is bound to happen between Santa Cruz and Frampton and, if Santa Cruz is willing to go to Belfast, Northern Ireland, Frampton’s hometown, they can strike up another competitive match in front of 30,000 rabid fans.


Miguel Berchelt, 31-1 (28)


Photo credit: Tom Hogan/HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Photo credit: Tom Hogan/HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions


“Competition, I’m-a get rid of
You can’t get a bit of, so just consider
A break or rest, vacation, hibernation
And make way for my smooth operation
I’m a smooth operator”


A 25-year-old Mexican fighting in his first world title bout, the kid they call “El Alacran” performed a sting operation of fellow countryman Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas, Saturday night in Indio, California. “The Scorpion” outgunned Vargas after 11 rounds of sustained action and referee Raul Caiz Jr.’s bloodstained shirt was evidence to the assault Berchelt inflicted.


Stopped 41 seconds into the 11th round, Vargas didn’t protest the stoppage as Caiz jumped in to stop the beating and bloodshed. Vargas, 23-1-2 (17), was defaced in his first defeat and it could’ve been much worse, had Berchelt continued to impose his sharp combination punching. Berchelt wasn’t afraid to enter the fray with Vargas – who had previously fought in two “Fight of the Year” candidates. Reminders of those previous fights against Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido were branded around his eyes before the fight and an inadvertent headbutt in the fourth round opened a significant cut above his left eye. Shortly afterward, in the same round, Berchelt landed a left hook that nicked a small gash on the right eye.




While the headbutt caused the major gash on Vargas’ face, Berchelt’s keen offense made it worse as the rounds went on. Vargas didn’t go out without a fight, however, and the body work he achieved could not overshadow the constant head-snapping right hands Berchelt implemented. The fight had its moments of back-and-forth action, particularly in the last 30 seconds of the second round, in which both men were hurt, but Berchelt’s dominance on offense prevented this skirmish from being a third FOTY in a row for Vargas. Berchelt ended the fight with a remarkable 53% power punch connect rate (336/633).


“I wanted to fight the best of the best, and this fight happened because of that,” said Berchelt after the win. “Francisco is a great champion; he has fought the best and has been in two Fight of the Year contests. I knew what I was getting into; he has great heart. I left my heart and soul on the mat. I am young and hungry and I want to fight the best because that is how champions are made. I want to thank Vargas for this incredible opportunity.”


Takashi Miura and Miguel Berchelt. Photo credit: Mike Baca II

Takashi Miura and Miguel Berchelt. Photo credit: Mike Baca II


It was a fantastic performance for Berchelt and he instantly becomes a player in a 130-pound class that’s flourishing in talent. At Wednesday afternoon’s final press conference in Los Angeles, Berchelt foresaw what would happen Saturday night when personally asking Miura to take a picture after the presser. When asked why he wanted to take a picture with the Japanese warrior, Berchelt replied, “Because that’s my future opponent.”



Hostile Agents of the Week


Oscar De La Hoya




“Face-to-face, each a classic case
We shadow box and double-cross
Yet need the chase”


It was an awful week for The “Golden Boy” but it didn’t start out that way. On Jan. 23, his company announced a deal with ESPN to televise Golden Boy Promotions’ events, but that quickly wasn’t everyone’ focus after he was arrested the following evening for a DUI in Pasadena, California. Some might say he was celebrating the deal but after the news of an update regarding his antitrust lawsuit of Al Haymon broke Thursday, Oscar probably already knew of his impending defeat in court. De La Hoya, 43, made the idiotic decision to drive home after a stretch of pounding drinks – an inexcusable offense for anyone, no matter their status. Not smooth.


Andrzej Wawrzyk, 33-1 (19)


The Polish heavyweight tested positive for an anabolic steroid after partaking in VADA testing on Jan. 15 and 16. He was set to face Deontay Wilder for the WBC heavyweight title on February 25. Gerald Washington is now scheduled to challenge Wilder, in the main event of a “PBC on FOX” card.


Jonathan Victor Barros, 44-4-1 (22)


The Argentinean was set to face the IBF featherweight titleholder Lee Selby, Saturday, night on Showtime Extreme but Barros didn’t meet “fight requirements.” Selby, 23-1 (8), said he was almost in tears once receiving the news Friday at the weigh-in.


The corner of Brandon Cook and the crowd at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Saturday, Jan. 28



After the stoppage of Brandon Cook in the seventh round, Steven Butler was hit with an ice bucket that was hurled from ringside. A melee proceeded to occur after the fight and heated tempers flared to patrons in the crowd.






World title bouts (in order of weight class)


Mikey Garcia KO 3 Dejan Zlaticanin (WBC 135) | Garcia is the new WBC lightweight titleholder.

Miguel Berchelt TKO 11 Francisco Vargas (WBC 130) | Berchelt is the new WBC junior lightweight titleholder.

Leo Santa Cruz MD 12 Carl Frampton (WBA 126) | 115-113 twice, 114-114 | Santa Cruz is the new WBA featherweight titleholder.

Jerwin Ancajas RTD 7 Jose Alfredo Rodriguez (IBF 115) | Ancajas defends his IBF super flyweight title for the first time.

Wanheng Menayothin UD 12 Melvin Jerusalem (WBC 105) | 115-113, 114-113 twice | Menayothin defends his WBC strawweight title for sixth time.



Notables (In order of weight class)


Carlos Takam KO 4 Marcin Rekowski (200+)

Simon Kean UD 8 Avery Gibson (200+) | 80-72 twice, 79-73

David Benavidez TKO 2 Sherali Mamajonov (168)

Bakhram Murtazaliev KO 4 Josue Obando (160)

John Vera SD 10 Salim Larbi (154) | 97-92, 95-94, 94-95

Brandon Cook TKO 7 Steven Butler (154)

Jaron Ennis KO 1 Elvin Perez (147)

Sadam Ali KO 3 Jorge Silva (147)

Arnold Barboza Jr. UD 8 Johnny Rodriguez (147) | 79-73 twice, 78-74

Josh Taylor UD 8 Alfonso Olvera (147) | 79-72, 78-73 twice

Ivan Redkach TKO 8 Demond Brock (140)

Jaider Parra TKO 12 Nicolas Gonzalez (140)

Roiman Villa RTD 7 Hevinson Herrera (140)

Ayaz Hussain TKO 2 Ulises Perez (140)

Batyrzhan Jukembayev KO 1 David Rangel (140)

Yves Ulysse Jr. UD 8 Jose Emilio Perea (140) | 80-72 by all three official ringside judges

Ablaikhan Khussainov TKO 6 Oscar Mejia (135)

Lamont Roach KO 1 Alejandro Valdez (130)

Erick De Leon KO 4 Jose Salinas (130)

Keenan Carbajal TKO 5 Gustavo Molina (130)

Robson Conceicao TKO 2 Aaron Ely (130)

Leduan Barthelemy UD 6 Jesus Aguinaga (126) | 59-55 twice, 58-56

Robert Onggocan TKO 7 Iwan Zoda (112)



Declarations of War


Fights made last week (in order of weight class)


Dmitry Bivol vs. Robert Berridge (175) | February 23 – Russia

Jason Quigley vs. Glen Tapia (160) | March 23 – Indio, California

Tony Harrison vs. Jarrett Ward (154) | February 25 – Birmingham, Alabama

David Avanesyan vs. Lamont Peterson (147) | February 18 – Cincinnati, Ohio

Sam Eggington vs. Paulie Malignaggi (147) | March 4 – London, England

Terry Flanagan vs. Petr Petrov (WBO 135) | April 8 – Manchester, England

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Rene Alvarado (130) | March 11 – Verona, New York

Shinsuke Yamanaka vs. Carlos Carlson (WBC 118) | March 2 – Tokyo, Japan

Carlos Cuadras vs. David Carmona (115) | March 18 – New York, New York



Imminent Conflicts


This week’s boxing schedule


Television (U.S.)


Thursday, Feb. 2

FS1 (8:00 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) | Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino – Tunica, Mississippi




Sammy Vasquez Jr. vs. Luis Collazo (147)

Yordenis Ugas vs. Levan Ghvamichava (147)

Ryan Karl vs. Eddie Ramirez (140)


Friday, Feb. 3


Estrella TV/ (10:00 p.m ET/7 p.m. PT) | Belasco Theater – Los Angeles, California




Joshua Franco vs. Victor Pasillas (122)

Hector Tanajara Jr. vs. Baltazar Ramirez (135)

Ryan Garcia vs. TBA (135)


UniMas (11:00 p.m ET/8 p.m. PT) | Coliseo Roberto Clemente – San Juan, Puerto Rico




Felix Verdejo vs. Oliver Flores (135)

Christopher Diaz vs. Efrain Esquivas (126)

Derrieck Cuevas vs. Juan Jesus Rivera (140)



Notable non-televised bouts


In order of weight class


Tuesday, Jan. 31


Nihito Arakawa vs. Anthony Sabalde (135) | Tokyo, Japan


Friday, Feb. 3


Justin Jones vs. Rodney Moore (200+) | Tunica, Mississippi

Anthony Mundine vs. Danny Green (200) | North Adelaide, Australia

Michael Seals vs. Dennis Sharpe (175) | Tunica, Mississippi

Tim Tszyu vs. Mark Dalby (160) | North Adelaide, Australia

Ray Robinson vs. TBA (147) | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David Mijares vs. Thomas Herrera (140) | Los Angeles, California

Jonathan Navarro vs. Angel Rodriguez (140) | Los Angeles, California

Hairon Socarras vs. German Meraz (130) | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Jean Carlos Rivera vs. Roberto Corea (126) | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Edgar Valerio vs. TBA (126) | Los Angeles, California

Jason Moloney vs. Marco Demecillo (122) | North Adelaide, Australia

Andrew Moloney vs. Renoel Pael (118) | North Adelaide, Australia


Saturday, Feb. 4


David Price vs. Christian Hammer (200+) | London, England

Agit Kabayal vs. Herve Hubeaux (200+) | Magdeburg, Germany

Kevin Lerena vs. Vikapita Merero (200) | Kempton Park, South Africa

Ryno Liebenburg vs. Enrico Koelling (175) | Kempton Park, South Africa

Renold Quinlan vs. Chris Eubank Jr. (168) | London, England

Adam Etches vs. John Ryder (168) | London, England

Khiary Gray Pitts vs. Courtney Pennington (154) | Lincoln, Rhode Island

Thulani Mbenge vs. Ntuthuko Memela (147) | Kempton Park, South Africa

Dante Jardon vs. Francisco Rojo (135) | Cancun, Mexico

Masaru Sueyoshi vs. Allan Vallespin (130) | Tokyo, Japan

Kid Galahad vs. Joseph Agbeko (126) | London, England

Yasutaka Ishimoto vs. Yusaku Kuga (122) | Tokyo, Japan

Daigo Higa vs. Diomel Diocos (115) | Tokyo, Japan

Ardin Diale vs. Andrew Selby (112) | London, England

Hekkie Budler vs. Joey Canoy (108) | Kempton Park, South Africa



You can reach Michael Baca II at and follow him at





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