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Boxing News, June 2, 2006

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The Kiss Of Death
Berrio Sends Mack Back to the Ghetto With a Smacker



Should super-middleweight Alejandro Berrio unexpectedly plant a kiss on your forehead, get ready to duck: a debilitating punch is sure to follow.  It’s the Colombian’s version of the Kiss of Death.

After punishing undefeated Philly prospect Yusaf Mack from the second round on in Pompano Beach, Fl., Berrio felt it was time to close the show in the sixth.  At 1:15 of the round, he puckered up and laid one on Mack’s bowed head. Thirty seconds later a downward arcing right caught Mack on the left cheek and dropped him.  He easily beat the count, but soon after a pinpoint left-right uppercut combo floored Mack again.  He stood once more, though was just a shell; when referee James Warring asked him if he wanted to continue, the 26-year-old stared ahead vacantly. 

Rather than halting the bout, Warring inexplicably called a timeout and allowed the ringside physician to make the call.  He didn’t hesitate.  The time of stoppage was 2:31 of the sixth, for what might be this year’s most startling upset on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.

Berrio is the latest Colombian puncher (they grow ‘em there like Florida does oranges) to shock the boxing world.  We knew he had ferocious power, with 24 of his 25 wins coming by KO. But all of his losses (4) came in the same fashion.  Mack, who fell to 22-1-2 (14), seemed the genuine article—a technically sound thinking man’s fighter with some pop.  He was among a handful of American super middleweights getting hyped, now that folks have been forced off the Jeff Lacy bandwagon.

The chatter was that an impressive outing against Berrio would earn Mack a shot against WBO kingpin Joe Calzaghe, who is making his HBO debut later this summer. Before the bout, his stated plan was to jump the pond and dominate Europe. After giving Calzaghe his first loss, he would take out WBA champ Mikkel Kessler, followed by the WBC’s Markus Beyer, and then bring the belts home. Certainly, Mack will be home for a while, at the Blue Horizon. 

After a feel out round in the first that heated up a bit towards the end, Berrio became an implacable force thereafter. Looking taller than the listed 6’1’’ and Kate Moss-thin, you wouldn’t expect him to be as aggressive and strong as he is. Nor would you expect him to be so effective in-fighting—he’s happiest at close range and loves to work the body.

No defensive wiz, when he got caught clean with Mack’s best stuff, he shook it off like they were love taps. There’s no problem with this guy’s beard, unless Mack has severely overrated power.  He threw over a hundred punches/round, and let’s his offense serve as his defense. But he can be crafty, too, flummoxing Mack by seamlessly turning southpaw and even buckling him with a shotgun left jab. 

Berrio didn’t take a step backwards the whole night, which drained Mack as much mentally as physically. His right hand did most of the work, throwing every punch in the book—not necessarily with textbook form.  His motto is whatever works.  This night, everything did. 

Did Berrio have a Buster Douglas moment, when the stars aligned just for one night?  Does he simply have Mack’s number, but not someone else’s?  Or is he a true force to be reakoned with at 168?  My Spanish isn’t good, but, afterwards, I think he said, “Bring on Europe.”  

Richard Gutierrez 19-0 (12), a Colombian welterweight supposedly handpicked by Roberto Duran as a future star for promoter Luis DeCubas, faced lanky puncher Thomas Davis 9-3-1 (5). An accidental clash of heads in the third resulted in a cut above Davis’ left eye, prompting the ringside physician to halt the bout.  Since less than four rounds were completed, it was ruled a NC.

Davis could have continued but his body language suggested he wanted to call it a night.  The powerfully built Gutierrez had no trouble getting inside on the 6’2’’ opponent, who, in 2004, put his name on the map by stopping Kendall Holt in the first with pulverizing straight rights.

Does Hands of Stone have the Midas touch?  Too early to tell.  One needs to see more of Gutierrez against solid opposition. Thomas Davis is too streaky and unpredictable to give an accurate reading of his potential.

In a four-rounder between light-middleweights, Jose Angel Rodriguez toyed with Marcus Brooks, upping his record to 6-0 (1). All three judges scored it 39-37.

Brooks (4-0, 2), who collected his wins in South Carolina, reconfirmed that a spotless record garnered in the South—a.k.a. the Land of Opponents—is misleading.  And a 6’1’’ frame if worthless if you don’t know how to use it. Teddy Atlas noted every few seconds how Brooks had “no inclination to fight tall.”  The fighter would be wise to get a tape of the fight and heed Atlas’ words.

Light heavyweight Akinyemi Laleye raised his record to 5-0 (2) when he stopped Johnny Brooks at 1:15 in the first.  A minute into the round, Laleye bulled his man into the ropes and dropped him with a left hook to the head.  Brooks stood at the count of eight.  A few seconds later Laleye mugged him again, going upstairs and downstairs. At the count of four, the ref decided to end the bout. It was a tough night for the Brooks Brothers—Johnny is one year older than the previously mentioned Marcus.

Laleye is a raw product with a serendipitous story.  Raised in war-torn Nigeria, he moved to Chicago a few years ago and, while on vacation in Florida, bumped into Winky Wright. The pound-for-pound vet encouraged Laleye to check out his St. Petersburg gym.  The rest is history.

Ed Paredes w pts 4 (u) Matt Hill; Elieser Cedpedo rsf 1 Adam Ortiz.




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