27.06.04 – By Patrick Corcoran: In a junior middleweight bout featuring a former Olympian, 1996 bronze medallist Terrance Cauthen danced and circled his way to a unanimous 10-round decision over late replacement Roberto Ortega. This was a rematch between the two men, who originally fought in 2003 when Cauthen earned a decision victory. Ortega, who fell to 17-10, was a late replacement for one-time contender Omar Weis. Cauthen, who now stands at 25-1, is knocking on the door of contender status, but still has a lot of big names to pass by before nailing down a big-time fight in the talent-laden 140-pound decision. Ortega and Cauthen, who was initially scheduled to fight Omar Weiss, set the tone early by bouncing around the ring across from each other without landing punches for the first minute. The two southpaws seemed demonstrated little commitment to jabbing or punching to the body. This pattern signaled the end of any hope of Ortega stealing an upset, and played right into his opponent’s hands.
In the early rounds, Cauthen stayed out of range of Ortega’s jab and wild left hands, and landed lightning quick a few lighting quick counters in the opening round. Cauthen’s faster hands and bouncier legs were quickly evident, but he was unwilling to trade with Ortega, and would follow up most punches by holding. Despite Cauthen’s athletic superiority, the two men were landing with such rarity that no clear leader emerged. It seemed obvious that Ortega had to press the action against his livelier foe, but this was not to be. Early on, it was a matchup of Cauthen’s quick but pillow soft counters versus Ortega’s jab and occasional body shot. In the middle rounds, Cauthen started to take control of the bout with decisive counter punches, especially his right hook. Cauthen also mixed in the occasional one-two, after which he inevitably held on. Ortega’s punches either fell short or he lunged into them so dramatically that Cauthen easily stepped under or around them.
Even as the action picked up, the result was mostly the same for Ortega. The right hook, as a counter or a lead, continued to be Cauthen’s best weapon aside from dancing. Despite landing several flush hooks, Cauthen never hurt Ortega. Ortega’s best work through the middle of the bout came from manhandling his opponent in clinches. After finding only limited success punching to the body in the opening rounds, Ortega seemingly ignored Cauthen’s midsection altogether.
As the bout came down the stretch, neither fighter began to fight with any sense of desperation. If anything, the pace was slower. Dancing, hooking and holding was the continued strategy for Cauthen, and Ortega maintained an attack based primarily on his too-short jab. Cauthen never slowed his movement, which is understandable since he never fought at a fast work rate.
It was difficult to see how any judge could score a majority of rounds for Ortega, but you wouldn’t know it to watching him close the fight. Ortega didn’t seem winded, but considering he took the fight on just a few days notice, his lack of energy was understandable, if not easy to watch. The tenth round bell was a merciful end to a bout in which neither fighter was down, neither fighter was hurt, neither fighter was tested and neither fighter moved any closer to a money fight (although nothing Ortega could have done would really have made a difference there). The judges scored it 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92 for Cauthen.
Simms vs Cora
It wasn’t contested on the same skill level as Jirov-Toney, but after twelve grueling rounds between cruiserweight prospects Michael Simms of Sacramento and Houston’s Felix Cora, Jr., no one could say they were dissatisfied. Cora took a majority decision in this rematch of the 2003 draw between the two men, bulling his way inside to outwork his foe. Simms, the taller man who entered the fight with a record of 13-1-1, began the fight firing jabs at his stockier adversary. Both men threw heavy shots in the first round, but with a different strategy; Simms snapped his jab while moving backward and circling, while Cora moved forward into his shots.
Cora, a southpaw with a 13-0-2 record going in, opened the bout from the southpaw stance, although that did not make for an awkward matchup of styles. Both men were very active and demonstrated solid skills and willingness to mix it up in a closely contested opening round. In the second rounds, Simms switched to a southpaw stance, which paid quick dividends. Simms used his superior height and range well, snapping jabs repeatedly in Cora’s face over the second and the third round. Cora continued to pursue, but he did not score with the same regularity that he did in the first round, especially to the body. Simms moved well and kept a good distance between the two men, maximizing his reach advantage. Toward the end of the third round, Simms and Cora spent a long stretch of time throwing short shots on the inside, which seemed to favor Cora. Although it was not enough to win the round, Cora’s work on the inside and Simms willingness to engage him there was constant storyline through the night.
The middle rounds were all very similar, with both men returning to the inside work that made the bout difficult to score but delightful to watch. Neither man ever was seriously hurt, but both were working at an astonishing rate for two hundred pounders. Still, the high level of activity continued throughout the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh round.
Both Cora and Simms spent some time with their back against the rope, but that did not mean that the other fighter was dictating the fight. Initially it was hard to see who was getting the better of the inner battles, but it was clear that the advantage that had sprung from Simms switching to southpaw had disappeared. His jab was nonexistent, and he spent most of his time squared up so that the southpaw switch was not a factor. By the middle of the fifth round, it was clear that Cora was throwing and landing more shots, both to the head and body. By the end of the sixth round, Cora seemed to be controlling most of the action, although the fight was certainly still very close on the scorecards.
Nevertheless, round seven marked a tactical shift for Simms. He returned to the source of his success in round 2, popping Cora with right jabs and pushing him off when Cora tried to lure him into a brawl on the inside. But it did not last. Rounds eight through eleven saw Cora and Simms in a constant battle for supremacy in the most intimate of circumstance, fighting
only inches part.
Simms’ jab all but disappeared. Cora’s suspected edge on the inside was confirmed down the stretch. He was continually the busier, more comfortable fighter, throwing compact punches and stringing together fluid combinations. Cora also proved himself more adept at blocking punches to his head. Simms was never dominated, but it was increasingly clear that he would need a knockout to secure a win. The pace slackened only somewhat throughout this portion of the fight. Although both men looked winded during breaks, they gutted it out and stayed extremely active throughout the twelve rounds. Simms and Cora both came out throwing bombs after the bell to start round twelve. Simms seemed to be gunning for a knockout, but his punches had lost steam. Cora maintained a high work rate, although from a greater distance in the twelfth.
The two sluggers contested the final round from inside and outside, only sporadically engaging in the sort of fighting that had characterized the fight’s previous rounds. Neither man relented in his attack, and the two were throwing power shots as the final bell sounded. Cora won the majority decision, with two judges scoring the bout 116-112, and the third scoring it a 114-114 draw. The Texan now finds himself with a brighter future in what is perhaps the most wide-open division in boxing.