N’Dam beats Stevens in title eliminator

After a great response from their inaugural card in April, King Sports presented another “Boxing at the Barker” card tonight from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. Three of the five bouts were broadcast live on a special Wednesday night edition of ESPN Boxing. The main event featured an IBF middleweight title eliminator between Hassan N’Dam of France and Curtis Stevens of New York. Boxing stars like Gennady Golovkin, James Toney and others were spotted ringside, along with celebrities like Sylvester Stallone. It was a great night at the fights in a fun venue.

Diehard boxing fans were buzzing about the main event on social media all week. On paper this looked like a great style matchup between exciting, yet vulnerable, fighters. Stevens (27-4, 20KO) entered the ring having won two in a row since his knockout loss to Gennady Golovkin last year. N’Dam (30-1, 18KO), a native of Cameroon now residing in France, had won three in a row since his lone defeat to Peter Quillin in 2012. There had been some trash talk leading up to the match and both fighters appeared eager to get it on during their ring walks.

Stevens came out guns blazing in the opening seconds of the bout, appearing to buzz his opponent. N’Dam weathered the early onslaught and began boxing, attempting to control the distance with lateral movement. His jab was keeping Stevens at bay through the early rounds; the Brownsville fighter wasn’t cutting the ring off and seemed to be thinking too much. N’Dam circled away, mostly to his left, and flicked out a stiff jab anytime Stevens got close.

Things began to heat up in the middle rounds as Stevens landed several hard punches in the sixth and seventh rounds that got his opponent’s attention. However the New Yorker was getting careless and lunging in at times. It backfired in the eighth round as a perfect straight right from N’Dam dropped Stevens to the canvas. He was visibly hurt, yet he beat the count and bravely fought on. After eating a few more shots, Stevens landed a couple flush punches of his own, buzzing N’Dam late in the round. The crowd loved it, erupting as both men exchanged combinations.

In the later rounds, the pattern from earlier in the fight remerged, as N’Dam continued to use an effective jab, movement and peppering combinations to dictate the pace. He felt totally in and even showboated at times. Stevens just couldn’t figure out a way to cut off his opponent and let his hands go, although he did get close in the last round. Toward the end of the twelfth, Stevens landed a huge right hand that stunned N’Dam. He desperately went for the stoppage, but N’Dam toughed it out and held on to survive. As the final bell sounded, both men looked like they had been in a fight. N’Dam had a swollen left eye and Stevens had swelling around both eyes.

Michael Buffer announced the scores: 119-108 and 116-11 twice for N’Dam. This writer also had it 116-111 for N’Dam; the judge who turned in the 119-108 verdict needs to have their brain scanned immediately. N’Dam improves to 31-1 with 18 knockouts. Stevens drops to 27-5 with 20 KO’s and finds himself at a crossroads in his career. One can’t help but wonder if the New Yorker would be better suited at junior middleweight, where he wouldn’t be as undersized. For N’Dam, he is now in line to face the winner of next week’s Sam Soliman – Jermain Taylor bout (another Wednesday edition of ESPN Boxing).

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