|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire|
Aug 5, 2001|
Ayala and Klitschko Win
By Chris Bushnell
When Paulie Ayala first defeated Johnny Tapia in 1999's Fight of the Year, and Tapia subsequently complained that Ayala had been the beneficiary of some biased judging, the boxing world simply filed Tapia's protest under S for Sour Grapes. Most observers felt Ayala won the match, and deserved his razor thin victory. But a few eyebrows begin to raise after Tapia repeated his indictment following a second loss to Ayala. While that bout had also been incredibly close, many felt that Tapia had done enough to earn the W in the final rounds. Then, earlier this year, Ayala faced off against Hugo Dianzo. Ayala struggled in the close-quarters match, yet once again walked away with the decision. Ayala's unusual penchant for accepting gifts from the officials followed him into his 122 lb. showdown with lanky counter-puncher Clarence "Bones" Adams. Even Adams had admitted that scoring a points victory over Ayala in Vegas would be next to impossible. Still, when the Ayala-Adams slugfest came to an end, it didn't appear as though lightning would strike for a fourth time. Adams had dominated the middle rounds and capped off the night by easily winning the final round. And then they read the scores...
But before another one of boxing's flawed outcomes was revealed, there was one hell of a fight. Even though Ayala's best weight is the 118 lbs. at which he still holds the WBA bantam title, he wasted no time attacking his taller, heavier, and more powerful opponent with his trademark style. Ayala loves to get in close and let his hands fly, and after a brief feel-out period, his sneak right hook and left cross had found Adams' head on more than one occasion. But the excitement Ayala generates isn't exclusively because of his offense. He's also more than willing to take a punch to land one. With Adams beginning the fight with aggression and power punches, both men landed leather often. For this, and most of the following rounds, it was Boxing Nirvana... a Barrera-Morales without the personal animosity.
Bones Adams' greatest victories have come when he uses his awkward frame to counter-punch at angles. But in this bout he was looking for some respect in the early rounds. Instead of waiting for Ayala to lead, Adams was often the one firing first... and he was definitely firing hard. Adams' first body shots loudly thudded against Ayala's sides. But swinging low leaves openings up top, and by the middle of the second round Ayala's jab and hook had begun to swell Adam's left eye. Adams was also getting caught making a rookie mistake: backing straight up. Several times in the second round, Adams backed straight into a corner, retreating with his chin out in the open. Each time, Ayala punished him by landing a power left from the southpaw stance. Near the end of the second, Adams was in just such a corner when an Ayala left cracked into the side of his jaw and dipped his legs in place. Referee Joe Cortez nearly jumped between the fighters, thinking that Adams' glove had touched the canvas. It had not, and as Cortez immediately leapt back out of the way, Ayala followed up his haymaker with a few more clean blows. Adams was trying to hang on, but couldn't grab Ayala's flailing arms at first. Eventually, he was able to force a clinch, and as the round ticked off it's final few seconds, Bones even landed a few solid shots of his own... enough to let Ayala know that he wasn't quite ready to go.
The sequence influenced all three ringside judges to score the round 10-8 for Ayala, without a knockdown. While many rounds garner such a score when a fighter is temporarily knocked for a loop but remains standing, rarely can such a score be justified when the hurt fighter mounts a small rally, as Adams did to close the second. 10-8 or 10-9, Ayala clearly earned the round in his favor... the last he would win on Boxing Chronicle's scorecard until the 9th frame.
Adams came on in the third round by using fierce body blows to control the action. Three times in a row, Ayala walked towards Adams just as he was winding up a gigantic right hand to the body. All three times, Ayala caught the blow in the middle of his belly. The fight now switched into "Tapia-Ayala" mode, which is to say that both fighters took delight in exchanging nearly identical punches and combinations. Adams would dig to the body and land a stiff right to the head. Before you could react to the sickening sound of Adams' offense, Ayala would answer with a body shot and straight left of his own. Or Ayala would unleash a four punch combination, and Adams would immediately answer with a similar flurry of his own. These are the types of rounds that give judges nightmares. With the men in close quarters throwing similar punches, it's no wonder that three judges on three different sides of the ring might see three different things.
The frantic action continued into the fourth. After Ayala drilled Adams with a flush left, both men aimed at their foes' midsection and fired away. But wh ere Ayala simply came in and threw punches as he always does, Adams made some small adjustments. Despite swelling spreading to both of Bones' cheeks, he began to find tremendous success by ending each exchange with either a heavy right cross or a beautiful right uppercut. Without question, Adams was the stronger puncher. His long arms often reeled back to set up his biggest shots, and even the crowd at the Mandalay Bay could see that these clean power punches were tipping the scales in his favor.
The action continued into the fifth and sixth rounds. There was almost never a clinch, and rarely a lull in the action. No matter how many times Adams nailed Ayala with an increasingly accurate straight right, Ayala would keep pressing forward. And no matter how many times Ayala was able to get in close and land hooks upstairs and down, Adams always came back with an answer. These middle rounds were the toughest to score, but with Adams consistently landing the harder blows, it seemed as though he were laying the foundation for a decision victory.
Ayala lost rounds (or so we thought) in the sixth and seventh when his accuracy rates began to plummet. As the two men continued to wage their intense war, Ayala began to miss more and more. At several junctions in the sixth and seventh, Adams found himself backing up but easily avoiding Ayala's combinations. And when Adams wasn't using his feet and upper-body movement to cause Ayala to miss, he was doing a masterful job deflecting body shots with his arms and rolling with Ayala's always rounded punches. Even in the eighth round, when Adams showed signs of fatigue and dropped his own punch output considerably, Ayala's attempts often caught nothing but air.
Bones Adams had swept rounds 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 on the Boxing Chronicle card. The four point lead we had assigned the recently stripped WBA champ could have been closer, but Adams clearly was the fighter with the momentum heading into the final rounds.
Ayala earned the ninth round as Adams continued to look for a second wind. As Adams picked his spots more carefully (perhaps too carefully), Ayala used the round as a chance to simply outwork his opponent. Although Ayala missed a ton of punches, a rarity with his style, he outworked Adams with ease, and tightened a close fight with three frames to go.
Adams regained his composure in the tenth. At one point, he walked into a big Ayala hook and stopped in his tracks for a moment. But that was the extent of Ayala's effective punching in this round. Adams now casually switched between the lead right and right uppercut in between both men's intense bodywork. While Ayala was never stunned, Adams' punches were crisper, landed cleaner, and were loudly heavier. Asked after the fight why both his hands were aching, Adams correctly pointed out that he was often making full contact with his best shots. Credit Paulie Ayala with a great chin.
From ringside, it looked as though Ayala needed something dramatic to turn the tide in his favor. Midway through another even-paced 11th round, Ayala and Adams clashed heads. When they came apart, Bones was clutching at his left eye. At the point where his left eyebrow met the bridge of his nose, Adams had sustained a deep purple gash. The cut wasn't long and thin like most, but short and deep. It looked like a puncture wound. Adams was called over to the ringside doctor, who looked at the cut in silence. After a few seconds the doctor asked Adams if he could see. Adams said that he could, and the fight was allowed to continue. The doctor never inspected the cut by swabbing it. He simply declared the standard to be whether or not Adams could see. Nevada's Dr. Flip Homansky may need a brush-up course for his replacements.
The cut wasn't bleeding into Adams' eye... that is until Ayala started hitting it. In no time, Ayala's looping right hook caught Adam's right on the gash. The blood now poured into and around Adams' eye, and his offense stopped as he tried to protect himself. Now it was Ayala who was coming forward. Adams mostly ran out the clock, although he did try and stand his ground a few times, only to get nailed with a right he probably didn't see coming.
No matter how you scored this fight, and with so many close rounds there will be a wide range of opinions on the score, you had to agree that the fight was damn close. With that in mind, the 12th round should have been just like so many of the others: both fighters letting their hands go and hoping to catch an advantage.
But instead of laying it on the line, Ayala fought the final round as though he knew that he held a good four-point lead. Ayala circled away from Adams for most of the round, and that footwork morphed into a slight run when Adams began again to land some heavy punches in the middle minute of the final round. But Ayala seemed to know what was waiting for him, and after stopping Adams' barrage with a clinch, he resumed backpedaling. As the final seconds wore down, it was Ayala who was backing away, not even trying to fight. With several seconds left before the bell, Ayala triumphantly raised his hands in victory. It was a bold move for a man who had just given away the final round in a too-close-to-call fight.
Boxing Chronicle scored the bout for Adams 116-112. We gave Ayala the first two rounds, the 9th and the 11th. At worst, we assumed the fight would end in a draw. A 10-8 in the second, and the flipping of a couple of close rounds (in particular, the 5th and 8th were very close) could have resulted in a draw, or a Adams one-point squeaker. And then Michael Buffer let it be known that a split decision had been reached.
Adams won the first card 114-113. Ayala won the second card 114-113. But when the third and deciding card was announced to hold a score of 115-112, it seemed that Adams had secured the victory he so apparently deserved. His face was a combination of disbelief and "I told you so," when Buffer finally bellowed Paulie Ayala's name as the victor.
The crowd booed the decision, although not with the intensity of so many worse robberies. Indeed, with so many close rounds, the eventual outcome wasn't completely preposterous, even if Adams appeared to have won the bout with his power and cleaner punches. Still, with Ayala's recent history of snatching close calls, the protest over this outcome with be heated.
After the fight, Ayala (now 33-1/12) claimed he never doubted that he was ahead in the fight. The announcement of his victory seemed perfectly logical to him. Adams (who drops to 41-4-3/19) was only a bit more shaken, having accurately predicted this outcome during the pre-fight press conferences. In the end, however, neither man lost anything. With names like Pacquiao, Barrera, Morales, Hamed, Gainer, Marquez, Ledwaba, Sanchez, Espadas, Austin, Tapia, and others packing the featherweight divisions, neither man will have a problem landing another lucrative television gig. In the best of all worlds, these two gentlemen warriors will agree to do it again. Who wouldn't want to see that? Ayala-Adams may not have been Ayala-Tapia, but it was better than 100 Jones-Gonzalez's.
On the undercard to this wonderful main event was a showcase for the Ukrainian big man, Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko was fed lightly regarded Charles Shufford as a showcase opponent, and both men did their jobs: Klitschko got the knockout and Shufford offered minimal resistance.
The opening round was all jabs, although Shufford's pawing stick rarely landed. On the other hand, Klitschko's jab is practically a power punch. It took only a few solid jabs before Shufford started moving away from Klitschko and using head feints as his primary weapon.
The second round was more of the same, with the robotic Klitschko plodding forward with his jab. At 1:15, he launched his first significant right hand. Shufford was so amazed at the site that he sat perfectly still and watched the black leather glove travel across the distance and into his face. The punch sent him down to the canvas, and inspired even less offense when the bout continued.
Shufford quickly shifted into survival mode, shuffling this way and then that, all the while staring at Klitschko's fists with a wide-eyed curiosity. To his credit, Wladimir showed that he can cut off the ring effectively. Only 40 seconds into the third, Klitschko threw another single right hand that bowled Shufford over and onto the canvas.
When Shufford got up this time, he probably should have just resigned. After all, he didn't put up any resistance for the following 8 minutes that the fight continued. Getting on his bike, Shufford tried his best to keep away from Klitschko. For his part, Klitschko simply came forward with his big jab. Klitschko's power and ring presence are awesome, but his technique is predictable, repetitious, and boring. Luckily, Shufford on his best day wouldn't have the skills to work off this weakness. Instead, Shufford simply hoped he could make the fight last.
And it did last. Rounds four and five were pure survival, and round six actually got the crowd booing loudly. But just as the boos started to sink in, Klitschko trapped Shufford in a corner and threw a left hook. Shufford was so busy looking for the right that he never saw the wrecking ball left come at him. The punch caught him on the side of the head, and he slumped to his knees, and then the ropes, like a sack of potatoes. Klitschko KO6.
With so few interesting names in the heavyweight division, Klitschko (now 37-1/34) is clearly being groomed as the next big thing. With his amateur background and sheer size, he'll be a force in the mostly barren division. But it's foolish to think that Klitschko has the markings of an all-time great. Ross Puritty already showed us a bit about Klitschko's stamina (and he's severely paced himself in every fight since), and we have to assume that a more fluid fighter would be able to take advantage of Klitschko's limited arsenal. When you're 6'5", 241 lbs., and can turn over your right hand, you're going to win a lot of fights. But to become heavyweight champion, and stay heavyweight champion, Klitschko is going to have to show something else. He may be able to...but he hasn't yet.
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