Elder-Burton: As Good As It Gets

18.12.04 – By Wray Edwards: In the last “Showbox The next Generation” of 2004, Showtime continued to take up he slack left by ESPN’s Friday Night Fights hiatus. In a fan’s boxing match, twenty-five year old southpaw Ebo “The Extreme Machine” Elder 21-1-(13) defended his NABO Lightweight Championship against twenty-six year old switch-hitter Courtney Burton 21-2-(11). Elder, who turned pro in June, 2000 with 110 rounds under his belt, faced Burton whose pro debut was in July of 1996 having fought 122 rounds since then; a seemingly good match, by the numbers at least..

Elder and Burton have both flirted with Jr. Welterweight activity, but were ostensibly fighting at 135 tonight. The taller Burton also enjoyed about a three inch reach advantage and was obviously much larger and heavier than Ebo by fight night. Pre-fight opinions had Burton expected to posses more power while Elder was looking to be speedier. The match was held at the Chumash Indian facility in Santa Ynez, California in front of a packed house.


ROUND ONE was pretty much of a feeling out process for both boxers, but it was evident that Burton’s ten to fifteen pound advantage (making him a welter at fight time) would enable him to muscle the lighter Elder around the ring at will. Elder showed some of his hand-speed, but was not active enough to carry the frame. 10/9 Burton.

ROUNDS TWO and THREE and FOUR were more of the same with one exception. At 1:36 in Three, Burton made a left down-stroke to Ebo’s right eye which caused a somewhat serious cut. The commentator suggested that it was Courtney’s elbow which did the damage, but stop-motion examination of the stroke did not support that conclusion. Burton, seeing blood,
turned it up a notch and went in to do more damage. Elder, seeing the blood did likewise. During these three rounds both fighters began to counter vigorously with Elder showing clearly greater accuracy. 10/9, 10/9, 10/9 with all three rounds to Elder.

ROUNDS FIVE and SIX saw Burton coming back in points with a 10/9 advantage in Five and a 10/8 for superior boxing in Six, plus another point advantage garnered when referee Cantu gave Elder a deduction at 0:50 due to repeated low blows.

ROUNDS SEVEN, EIGHT and NINE all went to Ebo who pressed his accuracy advantage with many combos and some very telling body blows. Throughout the fight, every time Elder scored, Burton would re-double his efforts in an attempt to stay even and give a good accounting of himself. Between every round Ebo’s corner worked on the cut and temporarily stopped the blood-flow. Of course Courtney kept trying to exacerbate the lesion.

ROUND NINE ended with a flagrant right (semi-uppercut) punch thrown by Burton, clearly after the bell, which sent Elder, who had relaxed at the sound, reeling backwards and staggering a bit to his corner. This writer agreed with the commentators that the punch was obviously late enough to merit a point deduction from Courtney. It was not to be as Cantu

Speaking of corners, Ebo’s father Greg, works in his corner as number one and throughout the fight gave fatherly, as well as professional advice to his increasingly battered son. There was no frantic yelling; only calm encouragement mixed with just the right amount of concern. Likewise, in Burton’s corner there was quiet support and no yelling from his trainer Malcolm Garrett; a great relief, considering the frenzied yammering in many corners this year. Courtney’s corner did tell him to take a round off at distance (nine I think) and collect himself. He pretty much accomplished that as Ebo chased him around.

Things really got frantic in ROUNDS TEN and ELEVEN which included non-stop toe-to-toe action that severely tested the hearts of both boxers. Ebo was looking the worse for wear, bleeding and being bullied around the ring by the larger Burton who was rested from his coasting round. Both boxers connected with their next-to-best shots as they rallied back-and-forth.

The action was fierce and there is no Boxing fan in the world who would not have been pleased to witness such guts and action. Burton had a slight mouse under his right eye while Elder had a swelling of his entire face. His mug looked like a jack-o-lantern which had been carved by a congressional sub-committee. Both eyes swelling shut and blood streaming from the cut. Burton was clearly winning in rounds Ten and Eleven. 10/9, 10/9 Burton.

At this point, yours truly had the fight even at 104/104. It was logical then, to assume that the outcome would be determined by the action in the TWELFTH ROUND. The word “action” seems a little thin for what happened in the Twelfth between these two intrepid warriors. One found oneself thinking Gatti/Ward; not just for the blood and action, but for the palpable anxiety which grows in your stomach whomever you are rooting for. These three minutes were to become benchmark moments in the lives of these two men.

Which guy would be able to grasp his destiny like a wounded animal, and lash out in one final, desperate attempt to survive and prevail? Looking at the battered, swelling, bleeding stumbling Champion, Ebo Elder, being shoved and pummeled around the narrow confines of the mushy-floored, eighteen foot ring, there seemed no hope of victory for the little scrapper from Atlanta, Georgia. The big guy from Benton, Michigan was a dither of punches and shoves.

Ebo ducked very low (even appearing to touch his glove at one point) as Courtney drove punches down at the bent-over and seemingly defenseless Elder. Elder was not fighting back for long, agonizing moments. Was he finished? How come he wasn’t punching? It was scary. When would Burton finally connect with the frantically dodging head and torso of the desperate Ebo? It seemed close to the end for Elder if not by KO, then surely by vastly superior Twelfth-Round points. Possibly even by a 10/8 margin as Courtney raged on.

Then at 1:13 Ebo reaches back through the centuries, peeping through the swollen slits which are his eyes, and brings a primitive left strike driving Burton to the ropes. Elder pounces and combos right, big left dropping Courtney to his hands and knees by the ropes. Cantu recites the eight-count at 0:60, and reluctantly backs away to allow Burton to meet his fate at the hands of the Tasmanian devil from Atlanta. Elder unleashes an avalanche of padded fury at Courtney’s head.

At 0:40 a left-right-big left bowls Burton against the ropes and down with no hope of recovery. Elder had conquered Courtney Burton as well as the limitations and injuries of his body. No moment in any sport could have more release and relief. Elder begins to pray, as did his corner during the last two round breaks. His eyes are literally swollen shut. He is disfigured beyond belief, yet he goes to Burton’s corner to pray for and with him. He stands as tall as any human ever has in victory and pain. There was something so right and satisfying about watching such an historic moment in a person’s life.

Because of the size disadvantage, I found myself thinking of Elder as the underdog. As soon as that thought was allowed to enter the mind, bias ensued, and the unbiased sportswriter was lost in hopeless partisanship. This did not, however, diminish appreciation for Burton’s skill and courage. He fought a dedicated and professional fight.

Courtney could not have known, beforehand, what he was about to face; and Ebo “The Extreme Machine” Elder may surely wonder how he did it. How he did it, was to form a core of iron will in his diminutive body, electrify it with mortal fury, and conquer all that stood before him in the squared circle tonight.

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