Photos: Ed Mulholland, Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom
By Kieran Mulvaney
VERONA, N.Y. - For the best part of eight rounds, Alberto Machado withstood a series of violent blows from all angles, as Jezreel Corrales looked to knock him out with almost every punch he threw. He rocked, he reeled, he hit the deck. And through it all, Machado kept his composure, heeding the advice of trainer Freddie Roach to stick to his fundamentals, work his jab and look for the openings that a constantly onrushing Corrales would provide. And then, in the eighth, it happened, a left hand sending Corrales down and out for the count and handing Machado a victory that he immediately dedicated to his battered homeland of Puerto Rico.
Corrales (22-2, 8 KOs) began fight week as a beltholder at 130 pounds but, by the time he entered the ring on Saturday night, he had already surrendered his title, having lost it on the scale by weighing in four pounds over the limit on Friday. Machado, however, could still win the belt if he came out on top, a turn of events that seemed hugely improbable early on as the Panamanian flung himself at him with a vicious if unconventional attack. A big southpaw left hurt Machado in the first round, and in the second Corrales seemed unable to miss with left after left. Machado steadied the ship in the third, working behind a jab and steering Corrales into power shots of his own, but normal service was resumed in the fourth, even as Corrales, having tasted some of Machado’s offense, now seemed marginally less reckless with his assault.
A massive left hand from Corrales hurt Machado badly in the fifth; Corrales’ own momentum carried him into the Puerto Rican, but he was able to step back enough to land a couple more cuffing punches that helped Machado on his way to the canvas for a knockdown. But Corrales allowed his foe to survive the round; and in the sixth he nearly paid the price as Machado (19-0, 16 KOs) landed a left hand of his own that clearly hurt Corrales badly. The Panamanian clung on for dear life, even tackling Machado to the canvas, but was cracked by a right hand that stunned him again before the round ended.
Corrales returned the favor in the seventh, landing yet another left that had Machado seemingly ready to fold, but then in the eighth, his recklessness finally cost him. The two men uncorked simultaneous left hands, but Machado’s, the more technically precise, landed first, its impact accentuated by the momentum of the onrushing Corrales. Corrales dropped to his knees, grabbed Machado around the legs and then, when the Puerto Rican extricated himself, folded flat on to his face. Although he hauled himself up, he could not do so in time to convincingly beat the count of 10, and just like that, Machado had scored what had seemed an unlikely victory.
“Freddie told me to double up the jab and that the opportunities would come, and they did,” Machado said afterward. “He caught me a few times, but I’m a warrior. I’m from Puerto Rico and I was always going to win this for Puerto Rico.”
Demetrius Andrade’s middleweight debut was a victorious one, and a dominant one too. Whether it was enough to cause any of the major champions and contenders to look nervously over their shoulders, or for fans to clamor to see the Rhode Islander take on any of them is a different matter. It appeared early on as if Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), a 2008 Olympian whose professional career has stagnated through inactivity over the last four years, might treat fans to an early night when he landed a booming southpaw left in the opening round that sent Fox (23-1-1, 11 KOs) staggering backward into the ropes with a shocked look on his face. But despite Andrade’s efforts to apply the finishing blow, the 6’5” Fox steadied his lengthy legs beneath him and survived the round.
Still, in the fight’s formative stages, it appeared its conclusion was just around the corner. Fox, who had never before been in the ring with anyone of Andrade’s caliber or experience, looked lost and borderline overwhelmed. He circled constantly into Andrade’s power hand, offered little by way of offense and looked frankly out of his depth. In the third, Andrade began targeting Fox’s lanky body with vicious left hand power shots, landing one and then another and then another. Fox’s body language betrayed a man who was far from happy with his situation. Yet with each round that passed, Andrade seemed less and less likely to bring the curtain down early, and by the midpoint of the bout, the fight had fallen into something of a monotonous rhythm. Andrade was winning handily, but if he wanted to make a true statement and sell himself as a major attraction and contender, he needed to find an extra gear, figure out a way to somehow change the tenor of the contest.
His cause wasn’t especially helped when he officially suffered a knockdown in the seventh. Technically, perhaps, it was the correct call as a punch did indeed land on Andrade’s torso before he hit the deck, but he seemed to be already on his way to the canvas by that point after his feet became entangled with his opponent’s. The call was always likely to be more embarrassing than significant; Andrade was so far ahead already that there was no way Fox could reel him in on the scorecards unless he found a way to turn things around dramatically over the closing five rounds; and, to his credit, Fox attempted to do just that from the eighth round on. Chastised in the corner by his father and trainer for not throwing enough punches, Fox stood in the pocket in the eighth and sought to make a fight of it. His bravery made things more exciting, but was of little if any functional difference in the direction of the contest; Andrade was still the first to the punch and the man landing the harder and better blows. The body shots in particular continued to cause Fox to wince in obvious discomfort and there were several points at which he might be ready to find a spot to lie down.
But Fox somehow continued to stand tall, even if he was unable to impose himself on the contest. Although he made it to the final bell, the result was in no doubt, even though one judge’s score of 116-111 in favor of Andrade seemed oddly close. (The other two, 118-110 and 118-109, were more reflective of Andrade’s dominance.) Fox will learn from the experience; Andrade will satisfy himself that he got an important win under his belt on his return to HBO, and will move on to fight against, hopefully, better – if not necessarily bigger – competition.
In the opening bout of the broadcast, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ryan Burnett remained undefeated by emerging victorious from a grueling bantamweight brawl with Kazakhstan’s Zhanat Zyakiyanov. This was a tough battle, with neither man giving any quarter, both men lowering their heads, digging their toes into the canvas and ripping short power punches. It wasn’t subtle, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t skillful, as Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18 KOs) smothered and mauled while Burnett (18-0, 9 KOs) fought to gain any extra inch he could find in order to secure greater leverage on his punches. It was the Ulsterman who ultimately prevailed, emerging from a fairly even first half to dominate down the stretch and win a deserved unanimous decision.