It may not have been an artistic success, but WBA Lightweight World Champion Richard “El Tigre” Abril will take it.
“I am very happy to get the win, but I’m not happy at all with the way the fight went,” said Abril after retaining his WBA 135-pound title with a unanimous 12-round decision over previously undefeated Sharif “The Lion” Bogere in the main event of Saturday’s SHOWTIME BOXING – Special Edition live on SHOWTIME from The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The lanky, Cuban-born Abril (18-3-1, 8 KO’s), of Miami, Fla., won his first title defense by the scores of 116-110 twice and 115-111. Bogere, a Ugandan living in Las Vegas, dropped to 23-1 with 15 knockouts.
In the opening bout of the telecast, unbeaten, world-rated southpaw Gary Russell Jr. (24-0, 15 KO’s), of Capitol Heights, Md., scored one knockdown en route to a lopsided 10-round decision over Russia’s Vyacheslav Gusev (20-3, 5 KO’s). Despite hurting both his hands during the fight, featherweight Russell hurled a shutout by the lopsided score of 100-89 on all three judges’ scorecards.
The main event was 36 minutes of jungle warfare with lots of holding, grabbing, head-butts and wrestling. After warning each fighter several times, referee Russell Mora deducted a point from each of them with the 5-foot-11 Abril losing a point for holding in the eighth round and the 5-foot-6½-inch Bogere one for leading with his head in the 12th. There were no knockdowns, but both took turns tackling each other to the canvas.
“I was hoping for and expected a much cleaner fight,” Abril said. “It’s hard to show your skills in a fight against a dirty fighter. I kept getting warned for holding, but I really didn’t feel like I was holding. He was shorter and kept coming in head-first.”
Abril, whose three losses came on split decisions, including his last fight, against Brandon Rios, in April 2012, wasn’t worried about the verdict going against him this time.
“I definitely knew I would get the decision. I landed all the cleanest shots,” said Abril, who connected on 35 percent of his punches (152 out of 433) according to SHOSTATS provided by CompuBox. Bogere, who was busier but less effective, hit on only 15 percent (93 out of 614).
The right eye of The Tiger was cut from an unintentional head-butt in the sixth. “He used his head to come in on me the whole fight,” Abril said. “The bleeding made it hard for me to concentrate.”
Bogere said he felt the fight was much closer than the scores indicated and that he had “done enough to win.”
“He was taller and that made it difficult for me to get inside,” said Bogere, who fell short in his quest to join fellow Ugandan fighters such as Cornelius Boza-Edwards, John Mugabi, Ayub Kalule and Kassim Ouma to capture a world title. “But when I did get inside, all he did was hold.
“This is very, very disappointing. My dream was to win the world title. I’m not happy now and I’m pretty down, but I know I’ll come back. You haven’t heard the last of The Lion.”
The talented Russell fought the last several rounds with a bruised left hand. “I think I hurt it in the third round,” he said. “The last few rounds I was tentative with it and only showed it to him. My corner knew I’d hurt it and did a great job between rounds coming up with different strategies, like starting off with a stiff jab and maintaining it, and slowing down the pace.
“My right hand is bruised too, but I don’t think it is anything serious. I fully expect to fight again in three months.”
According to SHOSTATS, Russell landed 229 of 797 punches (29 percent). Gusev, making his second start in the United States, connected on just 15 percent. Of the 214 punches he delivered, he landed only 33 times, the lowest total in the history of CompuBox for a 10-round fight.
In Saturday’s bouts on SHOWTIME EXTREME. hard-hitting middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KO’s), of Manati, P.R., knocked out Ryan Davis (24-10-3), of Granite City, Ill., in the fourth round; undefeated light heavyweight Thomas Williams (13-0, 10 KO’s), of Fort Washington, Md., registered a third-round TKO over Kevin Engel (20-8, 16 KO’s), of St. Louis; and unbeaten lightweight Jeffrey Fontanez (11-0, 9 KO’s) of Caguas, P.R., took a six-round unanimous decision over Daniel Attah (27-14-1, 10 KO’s), of Washington, D.C.
Non-televised results: Undefeated super middleweight Luis Arias (4-0, 3 KO’s), of Las Vegas, flattened Arsenio Terrazas (9-4, 8 KO’s), of Mexicali, Mex., in the first round; and unbeaten welterweight Sammy Vasquez (7-0, 5 KO’s), of Monessen, Pa., scored a second-round TKO over Leandro Albornoz (15-2-1, 5 KO’s), of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Saturday’s SHOWTIME telecast will be replayed on SHOWTIME EXTREME this Tuesday, March 5, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Saturday’s fights will be available ON DEMAND beginning Sunday, March 3.