- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Just as his father did 25 years ago, Cory Spinks scored a stunning upset last night to become undisputed welterweight champion with a majority decision over Ricardo Mayorga on a multi-title fight card at Boardwalk Hall.

Mayorga, who held the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council 147-pound belts, had been heavily favored over Spinks, the son of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, who upset Muhammad Ali to briefly become heavyweight champion in 1978.

Mayorga had shown disdain for his opponent leading up to the fight, saying, “After I am through with him, he won’t be the same fighter.”

But Spinks (32-2, 11 knockouts), the International Boxing Federation title holder, was difficult to hit because he is a southpaw and used his superior hand speed and boxing skills to score. He avoided the big blow from the hard-punching Mayorga (25-4-1, 22 KOs), who lost the fight because of his frustration in the ring at his inability to stop Spinks.

Referee Tony Orlando deducted two points from Mayorga, one in the fifth round for hitting after the bell and a second in the 11th for hitting behind the head. Judge Eugene Grant scored the fight 114-112 for Spinks, while Arthur Ellensen had it 114-114 and John Keane 117-110 for Spinks — and these scores came after the points were deducted.

Last night’s main event between Bernard Hopkins and the District’s William Joppy for the undisputed world middleweight title ended too late for this edition. It was one of eight title fights that promoter Don King put on while weaving a patriotic theme into the evening.

King brought in five members of the 101st Airborne Division from Iraq and their families as guests and also had a direct two-way video and audio hookup with their division. King spoke with Gen. David Petreus, who was watching the fight with his troops in Mosul.

Some of the championship bouts actually lived up to the hype. Others, though, reflected the despair running through the sport of boxing these days, particularly the dismal plight of the heavyweight division.

Last night’s featured heavyweight bout brought big boos from the crowd for its lack of action and talent. Former WBA champion John Ruiz won a unanimous decision over Baltimore heavyweight and former WBC title holder Hasim Rahman, but if the headlocks, clinching and rabbit punching had been eliminated, there would have been little to score.

“It felt like an ugly fight,” Ruiz conceded. “I apologize to the fans because I always want to give my best.”

Ruiz appeared to land the more effective blows, beating Rahman to the punch with a number of right hands, but both fighters were greeted with a round of boos from the crowd of 12,346 when they returned to their corners after each round.

Judge Joseph Pasquale scored the bout 118-110, while John Poturaj had it 115-114 and George Hills 116-112 for Ruiz, who now either becomes the mandatory challenger for a rematch with WBA heavyweight champion Ron Jones, who took the title from Ruiz in March, or else will be handed the title if Jones refuses to fight him, according to King. It’s unlikely that Jones, who said he is looking for a match against Mike Tyson, will fight Ruiz again.

For Rahman, the loss could mean the end of his career. He has not won a fight since scoring his fifth-round knockout upset over Lennox Lewis in South Africa in April 2001. After that, he was knocked out in the fourth round of a rematch with Lewis in November 2001, stopped by Evander Holyfield in eight rounds in June 2002 because of a severe head bruise and fought David Tua to a draw in March.

“I won this fight,” Rahman protested. “I controlled the fight. That decision is crazy.”

Much more entertaining was a junior bantamweight fight between International Boxing Federation 115-pound world champion Luis Perez of Nicaragua against Felix Machado of Venezuela. The two southpaws traded combinations with blazing speed throughout.

Perez (22-1, 14 KOs) got the better of the exchanges and hit Machado (23-5, 12 KOs) with several hard lefts early in the eighth round that nearly took Machado out of the fight. But the challenger came back to nail the tired Perez several times with his own lefts as the round ended.

“The eighth round was the hardest of the night,” Machado said.

Perez won a unanimous decision, although two judges did not score the fight close. Debra Barnes had it 117-111 and Kason Cheeks 119-109. Judge Lawrence Layton scored it much closer, 115-113. Perez said after the fight that Machado “was hurt, but he fought like a warrior.”

Other fights weren’t as competitive. World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion Zab Judah (30-1, 22 KOs) disposed of challenger Jaime Rangel (29-5, 25 KOs) in one round, sending him down and against the bottom rope with a chopping left hand and a right cross.

WBA super welterweight champion Alejandro Garcia (22-1, 21 KOs) of Mexico suffered his first career defeat when he was knocked out at 1:41 of the fifth round by undefeated challenger Travis Simms (23-0, 18 KO), of Norwalk, Conn. Simms nailed Garcia, who had appeared to be in control of the fight, with a left hook as the two fighters were coming out of a clinch and the champion relaxed for a moment, and put his hands down.

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