WBA Super Middleweight Champion David Morrell Jr. delivered another knockout in front of his adopted hometown crowd as he stopped Alantez Fox in the fourth round of the FOX PBC Fight Night main event and on FOX Deportes Saturday night from The Armory in Minneapolis.
The 23-year-old Morrell (6-0, 5 KOs), a prolific Cuban amateur who found a home in Minneapolis after turning pro in 2019, scored his second-straight knockout victory in front of his hometown fans, following up a first-round destruction of Mario Cazares in June on FOX.
“I love fighting here in Minnesota,” said Morrell. “This is a great opportunity to fight in front of my fans here. It really motivates me.”
Morell stepped up in competition again on Saturday, facing the durable veteran Fox (28-3-1, 13 KOs), a test he passed in emphatic fashion. Morrell and Fox spent much of the early rounds tied up on the inside, as Fox looked to slow down the offensive-minded Morrell.
Fox had success in avoiding the vaunted straight left hand from the southpaw Morrell, ducking it and tying up consistently in the early rounds. While Fox was able to avoid damage across those first few rounds, Morrell was able to land an efficient 46% of his power punches throughout the action, according to CompuBox.
“I was just listening to my team and following their instructions,” said Morrell. “We were just working in there, just like we do in the gym. They told me to let my hands go, so I did. Fox didn’t have the power to keep me off of him. So I knew that I had to take advantage of it. I felt comfortable in there and that made it easy for me.”
In round four, Morrell broke through with a left uppercut during another tie-up on the inside, landing flushly and putting Fox on the canvas. Morrell immediately upped his attack rate and stalked Fox around the ring, continuing to fling power punches and eventually prompting Fox’s corner to throw in the towel 2:06 into the round.
“I thought I won the first round, and in the second round I knew he was going to come out aggressively,” said Fox. “So I was trying to move and make it tough for him. We were holding each other on the inside and he came in with a good shot that dazed me. I was upset about the fight being stopped, but I know that my team has my best interests at heart.”
Morrell quickly set his sights on the rest of the elite 168-pound fighters.
“I respect everybody in the super middleweight division, but I want to fight all of them,” said Morrell. “I’ve got this belt right now and I’m open to fighting any of them. They just have to step up.”
In the co-main event, rising lightweight Jose Valenzuela (11-0, 7 KOs) scored a dominating fourth-round stoppage over Austin Dulay (14-3, 10 KOs).
Valenzuela took control of the fight from the outset, scoring his first knockdown of the fight with a big combination punctuated by a left hook that sent Dulay to the canvas in round one. Valenzuela followed up the knockdown with two more in the same round, first with a left hook to the body and later with a right hook to the head.
“The game plan was to use my jab, touch him to the body and then finish him up top,” said Valenzuela. “I just stayed patient, took the shots he gave me and landed a good one. I was surprised he fell right away, but he showed a lot of heart.”
Dulay was able to stay tough and remain in the fight, throwing back big overhand lefts that occasionally connected, but did little to slow his opponent. Valenzuela scored yet another knockdown in round two, with another combination to the head, hurting Dulay, who was again able to get to his feet.
After Dulay continued to sustain punishment in round three, the referee stopped the fight in between rounds at the suggestion of the ringside physician. The stoppage officially came two seconds into the fourth round.
“I was surprised by the stoppage,” said Dulay. “I was starting to pick it back up and tag him with some shots. I rocked him with an overhand left at the end of the last round. Then they didn’t even give me an opportunity to fight.”
“I wasn’t surprised by the stoppage,” said Valenzuela. “I was going to stop him eventually and seriously hurt him. It was only a matter of time. I showed everyone that I’m a solid fighter and that I’m here to stay. I believe I’m the future of this game.”
In the opening bout on FOX, unbeaten super lightweight contender Alberto Puello (20-0, 10 KOs) cruised to a unanimous decision over VeShawn Owens (13-3, 12 KOs) after their 10-round contest.
Puello controlled the action with exceptional punching accuracy, landing 39% of his shots compared to 16% from Owens. While Owens looked to disrupt his opponent with awkward movement, Puello was undeterred on his way to a 171 to 78 punch advantage.
“The strategy was always just to stay smart,” said Puello. “I knew that I just had to keep moving and execute my plan. As the fight went on, I could see that he wanted to fight toe-to-toe, so I adjusted and stood up to him.”
The movement of Owens nearly got him in trouble early, as he was tagged with an accidental elbow that caused a cut over his right eye in round two. He was able to weather that difficulty, but was kept at bay by a consistent body attack from Puello, which opened Owens up to left and right hooks to the head.
“I could never get in my rhythm,” said Owens. “I don’t know what it was, but I couldn’t get my timing down. I got him good a few times, but I couldn’t capitalize. He was sharper than I expected, but he wasn’t too fast or too powerful. I just couldn’t get my timing going. He was the sharper fighter and he knew what he was doing. He was game and I take my hat off to him. It was all me. No excuses, he was the better man.”
After 10 rounds, the judges scored the fight 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92, all in favor of Puello, who scored the victory in Owens’ hometown of Minneapolis.
“I’m ready for all the top 140 pounders,” said Puello. “I’m just going to take it fight by fight, but they all know now that I’m ready for any of them.”
Preceding the FOX broadcast, FS1 PBC Fight Night was topped by unbeaten super lightweight contender Richardson Hitchins (13-0, 5 KOs) winning a unanimous decision over Malik Hawkins (18-2, 11 KOs) after eight rounds. The judges’ scores were 100-90, 97-93 and 96-94.
“My strategy was to box him and make it easy,” said Hitchins. “I knew he was strong, but I hurt him in the fight. I just wanted to make it an easy fight because I knew he was too slow to outbox me. I knew his new coaches were going to train him to walk me down.”
The action on FS1 also featured unbeaten light heavyweights Suray Mahmutovic (3-0-1, 3 KOs) and Chino Hill (6-0-, 5 KOs) fighting to a majority draw after four rounds, with one judge scoring the bout 39-38 for Mahmutovic, overruled by two scores of 38-38, plus unbeaten super featherweight Hector Luis Garcia (14-0, 10 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to defeat Isaac Avelar (16-4, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the fight 78-73 after eight rounds.