Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jesus Soto-Karass Plows Through Andre Berto; Omar Figueroa, Keith Thurman Survive Battles

Photo: Darren Abate/AP
It's one thing for a fight card to kind of, sort of live up to potential. In the pugilistic world, that's normal. There's a reason why we say "...on paper." Fights on paper might be much better than how they actually play out, and vice versa.

Following a gap in entertainment, it was only a natural that fans looked to the Andre Berto vs. Jesus Soto-Karass Showtimecard with a skeptical eye, aware of the potential, but expecting an okay televised card. 

Hope for the best, expect the worst, right?

Well, we may have gotten about as good as tripleheaders go, as Jesus Soto-Karass endured Andre Berto's offense to earn a stoppage, Omar Figueroa survived Nihito Arakawa, in a way, and Keith Thurman proved a thing or two against Diego Chaves. Forget all the interim belts.


Jesus Soto-Karass, 28-8-3 (18 KO) and 1 no contest, traveled against the grain for much of the bout against Andre Berto, keeping his distance throughout and hurting Berto with a looping right hand in the final minute of the 1st round. Berto settled down some in round 2, landing a nice counter right hands that froze Soto-Karass up momentarily. Berto's advantage in angles and straight shots was taken away as Soto-Karass met him at an optimal range in round 3, landing uppercuts that may have bothered Berto.

Another salvo from Soto-Karass had Berto in trouble along the ropes in the 4th round, and the punishment carried through the last half of the round, where he moved his head to survive. An apparent right shoulder issue for Berto presented itself between rounds, and again after walking through a whipping in the 5th round and missing a punch before falling to the canvas. 

Round 6 wasn't much different, with Berto struggling to keep up with Soto-Karass' punch output, but looking like a certified tough guy in the process. Berto's eyes were closing, his offense had been cut in half, yet he kept on forcing shots where he could. There's something admirable in that. His left hooks even pushed some swelling out of Soto-Karass' right eye, but doing "better" isn't quite the same as doing "well." 

As Berto's skin and shoulder both disintegrated in round 8, so did his effective offense. He took shots like a champ, but still took shots. And into round 9, he remained a willing sponge -- taking left hands downstairs, right hands up top, and trying his best to turn the tide. A low blow from Berto in the 10th round did little to stem the Soto-Karass assault despite a better work rate.

Withering under the pressure, yet somehow seeming to spiritually gain momentum, Berto tried his best in the 11th, landing a borderline body shot that wound up being called a knockdown in his favor. On the brink of stealing the fight out from under the Mexican in round 12, Berto stepped right into a left hook that ended his night. Hurt, attempting to right himself, and clearly unable, Berto's night was ended when he failed his in-ring sobriety test. 

Much of the pre-fight talk seemed to surround how Berto, 28-3 (22 KO), would be returning to form against a made-to-order type of guy like Jesus Soto-Karass. That idea crashed, yet at 1-3 in his last four bouts, Berto showcased the type of toughness we'd all like to admire in plowing forward behind swollen eyes and a jacked up shoulder. 

To the winner go the wreaths. Jesus Soto-Karass was declared all but finished coming off a stoppage win at the hands of Marcos Maidana in a satisfying affair, and has since bounced back quite enough to get attention.

Lightweight Omar Figueroa claimed a very hard-fought victory over Japanese challenger Nihito Arakawa, now 24-3-1 (16 KO), as he imposed his size and will throughout much of the bout. In round 1, engaging Arakawa every step of the way, and landing the heavier punches on the his game opponent. Without question, Arakawa came out the worse for wear, but he crowded Figueroa early in the 2nd round, looking better short-term, but taking a right hand that had Arakawa taking a count. Balls, guts, fortitude -- they all kept Arakawa in the fight, and in an entertaining way.

Tapping away, somehow Arakawa pushed Figueroa back in round 3, smacking to the body and lingering in his space longer than Figueroa would like. A volley from Arakawa spurred on Figueroa, whose anger almost seemed to grow with every clean shot he took. At the end of the round, Figueroa carried on with a cut on his nose, ruled caused by an accidental headbutt. Round 4 spilled more intestines on the canvas, with both men throwing whatever they had, Figueroa stunning Arakawa once more, and the latter sustaining with frenzies for the ages. 

The 5th round was more "Arakawa throwing relentless, pecking shots, Figueroa breaking through with more meaningful blows" action, and round 6 followed suit until a right hand caused Arakawa to fall into the ropes, which looked to keep him from falling. But true to form, Arakawa rallied, heart on his sleeve, for better or worse. And it paid off in the 7th round, as he appeared to rob Figueroa of some wind with his ceaseless motion. 

Swelling on Arakawa's left eye slowed him down in round 8, but Figueroa's offense slowed down as well. Not to be understated, Arakawa withstood serious punishment at times, all without forgetting about what his own hands could do. Said hands worked well in round 9 too, but Arakawa's chances were diminished with every bigger shot Figueroa landed on his nearly grotesque left eye. And the sideshow continued into the 10th, Arakawa supposedly seeing through the swelling, pushing forth and somehow making it to round 11. 

Without any clear warning, Figueroa, 21-0-1 (17 KO), appeared to be fading quickly in the 11th, sitting on the ropes and looking for big counters, but absorbing dozens of bee stings himself. Closing such a bout was a 12th round that saw Figueroa simultaneously looking to survive one moment, and seeking a huge, closing shot another. 

In one of the more needless scorecard announcements of the last few months, judges scored the bout 118-108, 118-108, 119-107, all for Omar Figueroa. 

Since both men gave just about every single joule of energy they had to give, and since both men were classy in their post-fight interviews, it goes without saying that both men should be showcased in one way or another once more. Figueroa, without a doubt, showed that he was the star in the match up, but he also gave up a few weaknesses. But does anyone care? 

The bout may have been too one-sided to seriously nominate it for "Fight of the Year" honors, but it was just so damaging and attention-getting that it might not matter. Figueroa has the world class upside, and Arakawa,  has the hearts and minds of the sympathizers.

In the opening bout of the telecast, Keith Thurman, 21-0 (19 KO) and 1 no decision, found his way to a stoppage win over Diego Chaves. 

It was as if the term "feeling out round" lost all meaning in the opening stanza, as both men looked for hurtful shots and landed them, though Chaves surprised Thurman by attacking intelligently and avoiding more incoming than expected. It wasn't one-sided, but the Buenos Aires, Argentina native Chaves marched forward and applied careful, yet brutal pressure in rounds 2 and 3. One-sided the rounds were not, but Chaves fought with a type of braggadocio that suggested he had matters well in hand. 

Thurman broke through in the 4th round, though, landing a series of left hands that visibly affected Chaves, who may have become complacent after a few small battles won. Diego Chaves wouldn't fully cooperate, however, and got in some body work and right hands before the bell. His nose bleeding, Thurman seemed content to roll with Chaves' lack of gusto in round 5. But Keith Thurman's backpedaling appeared more deliberate in the 6th round, and while he set up a few nice big lead shots, Chaves worked his body with a jab and landed the occasional right -- but not before being buzzed at the close.

What initially looked like anxiety from Thurman turned out to be patience, and he managed to seize a few points with slightly sharper punching in rounds 7 and 8, but Chaves wasn't invisible in there; he pushed Thurman, usually lashing out when strafed. Chaves also took the steam off of many landed shots with his rolling and swaying.

All was moving forward smoothly and in familiar fashion in the 9th round until a left hand to the bread basket from Thurman robbed Chaves of his oxygen and had him taking a knee -- the first clear sign of dominance in the bout. Clearly not looking to mess around, Thurman launched an assault in round 10, catching Chaves with hooks that opened him up for even bigger shots. When Chaves took another break on the canvas, it became clear that he couldn't continue, and at :28 of the round, that was it.

Not only was the fight entertaining, or at least highly watchable more often than not, but it proved to be a bit of a coming out party for both men. Chaves introduced himself to the world in a gritty manner, and Thurman proved he can smash through adversity if needed. 

Keith Thurman also showed a few different sides, though. It's not all brute force and muscle. He can box a little bit, he can trade, and he can firewalk if you ask it of him.  


Follow Patrick on Twitter: @Integrital, or @BoxingHistory

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