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Larry Merchant throws best jab of the night

by Paul Strauss: (Vitali stops Charr in 4th on bad cut), DeMarco vs Molina – Junior sits it out, Ward vs Dawson – Andre makes another one look easy

To start off the night’s festivities, HBO showed a replay of forty-one year old Vitali Klitschko’s 4th round TKO destruction of Manuel Charr at the Olimpiyskia in Moscow, Russia. After the fight, announcer Jim Lampley asked Larry about the possibility of David Haye remaining a thorn in the side of the Klitschko brothers. Larry reminded Jim about Haye’s “Loser’s Limp” display done after his fight with Wladimir when he removed his shoe to show everyone his injured little toe. The implication was that was the reason for his loss. In Larry’s deliberate manner, he said Haye should have removed his shorts, which would have revealed the the real reason for his loss. It was obvious Larry meant we wouldn’t be seeing any Fruit of the Looms.

Well, Dr. Iron Fist had his boxer shorts on while showing a total disregard for anything Charr might try to do. Vitali kept both hands low, inviting Charr to try something. Charr’s strategy seemed to be to tire out Vitali by letting him tee off on him? Well, let that be a lesson to fledging boxers. If you simply hold up what you hope is a tight guard, but don’t punch back, your opponent is going to find a way to penetrate your defense, as did Vitali. Soon he was getting through with a variety of shots, and by the third round a cut had developed over Charr’s right eyelid. In the fourth, Referee Guido Callverli stopped the action long enough for the ringside physician to take a look. After twice wiping away a considerable amount of blood, the doctor said no go, and the fight was stopped. Larry and Max Kellerman thought it might have been a little premature. They alluded to Moscow’s lack of experience with world title fights. Lampley pointed out the physician seemed to have a German sounding name and not a Russian one, for all that’s worth.

The show then moved on to live action at the Oracle Arena, in Oakland, CA. The co-feature of the night was a much anticipated matchup between WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco and slugger John Molina, Jr. Many thought this might be the fight of the night, expecting a potential slug fest. Well, Junior decided to sit this one out, literally. Seconds into the fight, he got tagged with a straight left from the southpaw DeMarco. The punch landed squarely on Junior’s chin. His knees buckled and he stumbled across the ring toward the ropes.

Molina straightened his legs, but they were still shaky. DeMarco, somewhat shocked by the effect his punch caused, practically ran to Molina to unleash a finishing attack. At first that seemed a bit reckless, because Molina did instinctively throw back a few wild shots. But, soon DeMarco bounced another left off of the side of Molina’s head that seemed to dull Junior’s senses. Molina then literally sat down on the bottom strand of ropes, and DeMarco caromed several more shots off of Molina’s head. Although the shots didn’t land on the chin, they were clean hard shots that crashed into the top and side of Molina’s noggin.

Max Kellerman and Larry Merchant seemed to think Referee Jack Reiss could have called a knockdown and administered an eight count. All three announcers also thought Molina should have kept his head and gone to a knee. But, the fact is the referee had no choice in what he did, as the ropes didn’t prevent a knock down. Rather, Molina elected to sit down on them of his own accord. Molina clearly signified he was sitting this one out, so the referee had no choice but to end the fight on a TKO. It was a shocking 44 second end to what many hoped would be a great fight. When asked in the post-fight interview whether DeMarco had any interest in fighting Adrien Broner, he smiled and signified he would like that.

The main event proved to be a great display of talent, but unfortunately not a great fight. After a relatively action less first round, Andre S.O.G. Ward took over and won every round thereafter. He managed to take away “Bad” Chad Dawson’s ability to do anything. Dawson was bad alright. He wasn’t able to get any kind of jab going, because Andre would almost mesmerize him with his own partially extended left. Dawson would end up sending his probing right jab harmlessly into the left glove of Ward. If he tried to change trajectory and the hoped for target, Andre would quickly step in and finish extending his left to send a pulverizing type shot to Dawson’s head or body.

In the first round, Dawson did manage to land a few decent counter right hooks, but by the second round, Ward had already found the winning combination. It was the standard three punch type, but with a Ward signature style. It would start with the kind of double clutch jab described above, quickly followed by a right and then the finishing short left hook. Andre’s well aimed straight right would travel toward Dawson’s upper chest, not the chin, which would stop Dawson’s ability to bend down and in. His now stationery head, with an exposed chin (right hand low) was then the perfect target for Andre’s short left hook. Andre turned on it beautifully to score the first knockdown in the second round. Right away Ward was up on the cards with a 10-8 round, plus there had been an accidental head butt that caused a cut over Dawson’s right eye.

By the middle rounds, Dawson was in deep trouble. He had already been down twice. Trainer John Scully had earlier tried to reinforce the game plan, which was apparently intended to get Ward to come to him, so he could counter with his right hook and straight left. It wasn’t happening, because Ward would close so quickly and then tie up Dawson, at least with one hand, while he worked him over with the other. Usually it was short left uppercuts on the inside. Referee Steve Smoger usually lets fighters work on the inside, and Saturday night was no exception.

Dawson’s facial expression gradually changed from one of confidence to one of defeat. Mentally, he was already a beaten man. Scully tried to scold him into understanding that this was what they had expected, a tough fight, and that now the game plan had to go out the window. He wanted Chad to forget everything else and go out and try to hurt Ward. “You’re not going to get a decision”, he yelled in Dawson’s ear. But, this just wasn’t Dawson’s night. The remaining few times he did try to get something going, Ward would easily avoid the danger by quickly moving out of range, stepping off to the side, or just tying him up.

In the meantime, he kept scoring with the same combination, plus some beautiful short straight right hands, which were administered from a tight guard position. Ward uses his quick feet so well, keeping his guard up high, which allows him to stay protected while letting his arm extend at the last moment. The result is a beautiful short shot with the power of his shifting body weight behind it. It’s minimum risk with maximum effect.

In the tenth round, just as Ward seemed to be displaying a bit of fatigue, he scored with yet another beautiful left hook. Dawson was badly hurt, and Ward quickly bounced another five punches or so off of his head. Dawson went down again, and by the time he climbed to his feet, it was obvious he had nothing left. Referee Smoger edged in close to examine Dawson’s eyes and then repeated the question, asking if he wanted to continue? Dawson said he was done. It was 2:45 of the tenth round. Ward had yet another win to remain undefeated, keeping his WBC and WBA super middleweight world titles.

In the post-fight interview Ward told Larry Merchant that although the fight might have looked easy, it wasn’t. He said Dawson was a monster, but on this night he certainly wasn’t a scary one. When it was Dawson’s turn, he simply explained that Ward is the best, faster and stronger than he anticipated. Dawson said Ward deserves to be where he is…….meaning at the top.