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Boxing News, July 14, 2006

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Highway Robbery?
A Slight Change of Heart After Initially Thinking Ben Rabah is Absolutely Appalling



Well before the IBF light welterweight title fight began between Juan Urango and Ben Rabah, the Friday Night Fights commentators prepared themselves and their viewers for a (potentially) bad decision. Florida, where the bout was held, is one of many states with a historically corrupt—or, being kind, incompetent—boxing commission. Some new officials have been brought in, however, and the hope was that things are changing for the better.

The fight went the 12-round distance. Rabah, a Tunisian who now makes his home in Perth, Australia, used his legs nonstop, pot-shotted off the ropes, and presented a virtually unhittable target. The powerful and aggressive Urango stalked all night—but to my mind, ineffectively.  Still, we held our collective breath waiting to hear the scores read.

When they were announced—115-113, 116-112 and 117-111—all for Urango, a great many viewers must’ve thrown their hands up in the air…in disgust.  Teddy Atlas was one of them. He had Rabah winning nine of the first 10 rounds, and in spite of Rabah taking off the last two, scored it 117-111 in his favor. Apparently, the fans booed the decision—which is saying something since the Colombian Urango trains in Florida and is promoted by the local Seminole Warriors Boxing. (Whether they were booing the actual choice of victor or the two wide scores that he was awarded, wasn’t clear.) I saw the fight as Atlas did. In fact, I even gave Rabah the 11th, a round in which he barely threw a punch.  Maybe I’m just a Willie Pep enthusiast, but when you make a top contender miss so bad he practically trips over his own punches, I’m impressed.

“I’ve been made into a liar,” Atlas exclaimed upon hearing the verdict, having given props to the supposed new-and-improved commission. I myself cried “highway robbery!” and awakened my now equally pissed-off wife.

But I took a walk, let things soak in, and then surfed the Net.  Many posters (some of whom I respect) felt Urango deserved the win.  I visited the dependable Graham Houston (, who had it a draw, and didn’t quibble with judge Peter Trematerra’s 115-113 score.

So, it comes down to: What do you like? And the difficult acceptance that judging a fight is sometimes as subjective as a Rorschach inkblot test.  Some think Rabah, who fell to 24-2 (13), was just running scared and not landing significant blows, and gave kudos to the pressing Urango for “making the fight.” Others saw Rabah put on a boxing clinic, every bit as convincing as what Bernard Hopkins pulled off a couple weeks ago.

There’s no need to fill you in on each round; they were mainly facsimiles of each other. Rabah did slow down towards the end, but he assumed he had it in the bag.  And for judges and viewers alike, it still came down to, what do you like? Having said that, the two wide scores of 117-111 and 116-112 still strike me as ludicrous.    
One decision that ought to be applauded was the huge upset Shane Swartz scored over top ranked cruiserweight Dale Brown. The fight was halted early in the fifth due to an accidental clash of heads that left Swartz with a nasty gash on his forehead. (His right eye was already badly cut.) Scores were 50-45 twice and 49-46, all for Swartz.

Brown, now 34-5-1 (21), had previously lost to only world champions—Wayne Braithwaite, Vassily Jirov, Jean-Marc Mormeck, and a terrible decision (I don’t care what you think you saw!) to O’Neil Bell.  He is the consummate pro, as steady as they come.  He can lead or counter. He blocks and slips punches with textbook form. He’s technically sound. He hooks off double and triple jabs, or sometimes turns it over into a sneaky uppercut to the body and hook upstairs. He does nothing great but everything well. The man can plain box.

Swartz, who improved to 18-4 (12), almost shouldn’t have been approved to fight Brown—if judging him strictly on paper. He was a capable amateur in the ‘90s but fought at 165. As a pro, he’s never beaten anyone of note. His weight has fluctuated from 165 to 215. Regardless, he ignored the critics and took the fight to Brown from the opening bell.

Swartz came in aggressive with fat left hooks to the body and head that, surprisingly, caught Brown and knocked him back on his heels. 

Brown found his rhythm in the third and was turning things his way, but with thirty seconds left he got caught by a left hook that drove him backwards.  Swartz jumped on him, strafing his body with hooks.  (Brown has a history of not taking it well to the body. Swartz’s excellent young trainer Trevor Whittman probably learned him on this.)

Again, in the fourth, Swartz finished strong with shots to the body and head.  While they were wide and telegraphed, Brown helped him by revealing a bad habit of pulling straight back or standing still after getting off. Swartz showed how moxie can overcome skill. He seemed to want it more than the placid Brown.  When the heads clashed in the fifth, and it went to the cards, the announcement was a wonderful shock indeed (especially since Brown is promoted by Seminole Warriors Boxing, perhaps the biggest outfit in Florida.)   


Light welterwight Richard Abril, a tall upright boxer schooled in the Cuban amateur system, improved to 4-0 (0) by beating Troy Harden via unanimous decision.  Scores were 39-36. Harden, game throughout, dropped to 4-1 (3).

Unfortunately, former heavyweight champion “The Atomic Bull” Oliver McCall was not on TV. He dispatched Kenny Craven in one round (TKO).  Not only does McCall have one of the better monikers around, he might be the most dangerous over-40 heavyweight in the world!

Andre Purlette has moved down to cruiserweight, where he’s hoping to have more success and added power. He won a six-round unanimous decision against Darnell Wilson.

Adailton De Jesus won a majority decision over Kevin Carmody in a battle of jnr. Lightweights.

Tall (6’1’’) and touted New York prospect Jorge Teron remained unbeaten but had to settle for a six-round draw against Armando Cordoba.  Lightweight Teron had been under the tutelage of grizzled Hector Roca.  This was his first fight working with Marc Breland, The hope is he acquires the same NiQuil the former Olympic gold medalist had in his straight right.





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