LAS VEGAS — At least junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux wasn’t boring this time, though the final call was questionable.
Rigondeaux, 36, retained his world title for the eighth time as he knocked out interim titlist and mandatory challenger Moises Flores, 30, in the first round in the co-feature of the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev rematch on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
But the result was drenched in controversy because the final punch appeared to come after the bell ended the round.
The fight began with Flores putting his long jab in Rigondeaux’s face as Rigondeaux moved and countered. As the time wound down in the first round, Rigondeaux landed two left uppercuts as his right hand was draped over Flores’ neck. When referee Vic Drakulich went to break them at the bell, Rigondeaux fired a left hand that nailed Flores on the chin, seemingly after the bell.
They had been throwing punches simultaneously.
As Drakulich continued to break them, he turned toward Rigondeaux and Flores fell to the mat flat on his back. When Drakulich turned around, he appeared surprised to see Flores on the mat and counted him out. Flores was down for a couple of minutes receiving medical attention.
Then, when Flores was deemed OK, Drakulich watched a video replay with a headset on at ringside, which is allowed under Nevada rules in the event of a fight-ending punch. He determined that the punch had been legal and ruled it a knockout, despite an HBO replay that indicated the last shot came after the bell.
Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told HBO that if the punch was after the bell, the commission will review the decision.
“We both threw punches at the same time and mine landed first,” Rigondeaux, of Miami, said through a translator. “It was only a matter of time [until the knockout happened].”
A native of Cuba, Rigondeaux (18-0, 12 KOs) defected to the U.S. after winning two Olympic gold medals for Cuba.
Because of his overly defensive style that has not been at all crowd-pleasing, Rigondeaux, a southpaw, has not been able to get top opponents to face him. But he is undaunted.
“At 122 [pounds], I’m making everybody disappear,” he said. “What am I gonna do? I’m here, I’m the champion. I’m a complete fighter and I’m ready for anyone.”
Flores (25-1, 17 KOs), of Mexico, was upset by the ruling.
“It’s not fair. It’s clear that the bell rang,” he said. “He didn’t throw a punch the whole round. I was winning the round and he waited for after the bell to throw a punch when I dropped my hands down.”
The fight was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland HBO PPV card, but that card was canceled when Kirkland suffered an injury, leaving Rigondeaux and Flores in limbo until the fight could find a new home.
Bivol steamrolls Agnew
Interim light heavyweight world titlist Dmitry Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs) was impressive again in his second American televised fight as he easily knocked out Cedric Agnew (29-3, 15 KOs) in a one-sided nontitle bout.
Bivol, with a crowd-pleasing style, nearly ended the fight in the first round. He came alive late in the round and pummeled Agnew, dropping him face-first with a right hand, and then teed off on him with around 20 unanswered punches until round ended.
Bivol continued to go after Agnew, who could do little more than cover up and try to avoid the straight punches coming in like missiles. Bivol land a left hand near Agnew’s right eye in the fourth round, and moments later Agnew raised his glove to his face and turned away, causing referee Russell Mora to stop the fight at 1 minute, 27 seconds.
“I’m very glad the flight went this way,” Bivol said. “I found my ways that I practiced and I used them, and you saw the results. I was ready for everything, so the fight ran smooth for me. I tried to open him up, but for some reason he didn’t want to go. He was close, he was very defensive and going back. But anyways, I won the fight.”
Bivol, 26, of Russia, made his American TV debut on April 14 in the main event of a Showtime “ShoBox: The New Generation” card and was just as impressive in a fourth-round knockout of Samuel Clarkson to retain his interim belt.
Bivol, who plans to continue fighting in the United States, maintained his position as the mandatory challenger for titlist Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs), 30, of Wales.
Agnew, 30, of Chicago, served as a measuring stick of sorts for Bivol. In 2014, Agnew challenged Kovalev for his 175-pound world title, and although Agnew gave him a few minor problems, Kovalev ultimately knocked Agnew down twice in a seventh-round knockout victory.
Middleweight prospect Luis Arias (18-0, 9 KOs) dominated Arif “The Predator” Magomedov (18-2, 11 KOs) en route to a fifth-round knockout in a very impressive performance.
In a match between card co-promoters Roc Nation Sports and Main Events — organizations that don’t like each other — Roc Nation got bragging rights on this one.
“Finally! You just heard my name,” Arias said. “Top 10 all-around. Easy work.”
While Arias, 26, of Milwaukee, delivered one punishing blow after another, Magomedov, who shares trainer John David Jackson with stablemate Kovalev, could do very little. Arias landed uppercuts regularly and rocked Magomedov with a left hand just as the second round was ending.
In the fifth round, Arias knocked Magomedov down with a chopping right hand. He beat the count, but when Arias connected with two more right hands, referee Robert Byrd stepped in and stopped the fight at 1 minute, 16 seconds, just as Magomedov’s corner was throwing in the towel.
“There’s really not a lot I can say about this,” said Magomedov, 24, a Russia native who fights out of Los Angeles. “He caught me with a really good shot and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Super middleweight prospect Junior Younan (12-0, 9 KOs) blew away Zoltan Sera (28-13, 19 KOs) of Hungary in the first round of a wicked mismatch. Younan, 21, of Brooklyn, dropped Sera, 32, with a left hand seconds into the fight and knocked him all over the place. When Younan floored Sera again with a clean left hook to the chin, referee Russell Mora waved off the fight without a count at 1 minute, 39 seconds.
St. Louis middleweight Vaughn Alexander (9-0, 6 KOs), 31, stopped Mexico’s Fabiano Pena (16-8-1, 13 KOs), 29, at the end of the fourth round. Alexander, in his fifth fight since being released in 2016 after being in prison for 12 years, had won all four rounds before Pena retired on his stool claiming a rib injury.
“It was a good a good fight for me, another good win,” said Alexander, who is the older brother of former junior welterweight and welterweight world titleholder Devon Alexander. “Another step to get me closer to where I want to be, amongst the top middleweights. You know, soon — maybe next year sometime I can be considered for a world title. I just went in there and worked on my defense, what me and my brother been working on in the gym, throwing more combinations and just taking my time.”
Featherweight Tramaine “The Mighty Midget” Williams (11-0, 3 KOs), 24, of New Haven, Connecticut, took Christopher Martin (30-9-3, 10 KOs), 30, of San Diego, apart with ease in a second-round knockout victory. Williams battered Martin throughout the first round, dropping him with an accumulation of punches. Williams continued to pour it on in the second round, prompting referee Kenny Bayless to stop it at 1 minutes, 44 seconds, sending Martin into a near meltdown because he was so upset by the stoppage.
“He was going to take a beating if they let it go for all eight rounds,” Williams said. “He has a family he has to get back to. It’s a good thing the ref stopped the fight.”
Junior welterweight John Bauza (7-0, 4 KOs), 19, of North Bergen, New Jersey, dominated Mexico’s Brandon Sanudo (5-5, 2 KOs), 27, en route to a second-round knockout. Bauza came out fast and batted Sanudo around the ring throughout the first round, driving him to the mat with a series of punches late in the first round. Then Bauza finished it with a body shot at 1 minute, 14 seconds of the second round as referee Bayless stopped the fight without finishing the count.
Welterweight Enriko Gogokhia (5-0, 2 KOs), 26, of the Republic of Georgia, cruised to a decision win against Jonathan Steele (7-1, 5 KOs), 26, of Dallas, winning 60-54, 59-55 and 59-55.
Russian middleweight Bakhram Murtazaliev (9-0, 6 KOs), 24, needed just 91 seconds to erase Alex Sandro Duarte (6-1, 4 KOs), 37, of Brazil, for a first-round knockout victory in the card opener.
“I’m very happy,” Murtazaliev said. “The fight went so quickly that I didn’t have time to even think about how I felt. I didn’t intend to knock him out, it just happened.”