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Sunday, October 11, 2009
Super featherweight Jorge Linares of Venezuela, called by many the "future of boxing", had recently signed with Golden Boy Promotions after being based in Japan, and was supposed to have a final showcase fight in Tokyo Saturday, October 10, with Juan Carlos Salgado of Mexico before starting to spend most of his time in the ring in America. Salgado went into this fight unbeaten, but had never faced a top fighter like Linares. Nonetheless, a Salgado left hook early in the first round caught Linares flush and dropped him hard. While he was able to get up, he was badly hurt, and Salgado resumed the fight by rushing across the ring to end the job. It was over in just 1:13 of the first round, with the unbeaten record and title belt of Linares gone, and his own future in doubt.
On the other side of the world, also on Saturday, October 10, Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico, another fighter already anointed the "future of boxing", was slated for a showcase fight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, to defend his 122-pound title against scrappy journeyman Rogers Mtagwa, originally from Tanzania and now from Philadelphia. A tough fight was expected, as Mtagwa was already in a 2008 Fight of the Year candidate when he came back from almost being stopped in the ninth round to knock out Tomas Villa in the tenth. The idea was for Lopez to win, and later move up to featherweight to face 2004 Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba and Miami, who is also unbeaten as a pro and was also in a showcase fight on this card.
The Lopez-Mtagwa fight, however, turned into a brawl far wilder and closer than either Lopez of his promoters, Top Rank, had anticipated. While Lopez won the earlier rounds, Mtagwa kept throwing and landing bombs, and more effectively as the fight proceeded. Mtagwa almost had Lopez out in the 11th round, and dominated in the 12th round. Lopez survived, but when the unanimous decision in his favor was announced, many in what had been a pro-Lopez crowd booed the decision.
After the fight, we had a chance to get the comments of both Juan Manuel Lopez and Rogers Mtagwa. We also got postfight comments from other fighters on this card, including Yuriorkis Gamboa, who scored a fourth-round TKO over Whyber Garcia of Panama; heavyweight Odlanier Solis of Cuba, who knocked out Monte Barrett of New York in the second round; super welterweight Pawel Wolak of Poland and now New Jersey, who stopped Carlos Nascimento of Brazil after five rounds; and middleweight John Duddy of Ireland and New York, who won a unanimous decision over Jorge Munoz of Kansas.
Plus, right outside the Garden after the fights, we summed up the evening with New York television host Kristal Hart.
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