Before they fought, underdog Jerome Ellis claimed the only thing he knew about Neil Sinclair was that he was getting knocked out. Brash words considering the Belfast bomber Sinclair once held the British welterweight title and even dropped Daniel Santos in a failed bid for the WBO welterweight strap.
But a left hook to the body in the sixth, which sent Sinclair to the canvas clutching his right side in agony, had Ellis looking like a prophet—or at least a very confident 150-pounder who just moved to 11-4-1 (10). The 32-year-old Sinclair, who dropped to 28-5 (23), must be pondering retirement, after several years of inactivity, untimely cuts, creeping age, and now this unfortunate blow.
The time of the KO stoppage was 1:49 of the sixth.
Sinclair shook off rust in the first—he hadn’t fought in 473 days—while Ellis looked like a young Roy Jones. Possessing excellent hand speed and reflexes, Ellis likes to jump in with lead left hooks and lead rights. For the first two rounds, he did so with aplomb, giving the Irishman whiplash and bringing up an angry welt around his left eye. (The scar-tissued eye received 18 stitches three months ago from a cut in sparring, and it had long bloody history before then).
Of Sinclair’s four losses going into the bout, three were by KO (two of those due to cuts). And he has been on the canvas several times. His shaky chin and fragile skin was a definite question mark. His last fight was a KO loss caused by cuts. Ellis’ leaping in with sharp, unpredictable, light-speed shots put Sinclair on the defensive, and off his game.
But Neil recovered in the third, working behind a busy straight jab and a sound defense. He was looking for his money punch—the left hook to the body or head, often using one to set up the other. When he got it off, it was a thing of beauty—short, tight, angular, well-timed. But Ellis’ new cornerman, Howard Davis, knows a thing or two. The 1976 Olympic gold medallist was considered the best on the team, which was the finest group of American amateurs ever, and included “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Davis likely told Ellis to keep his straight right active, thus making Sinclair parsimonious with his left hook.
The next round was another decent one for the Irish. A subplot was developing that the Wednesday Night Fights commentators began to discuss. The City Auditorium, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is over 6,000 feet above sea level. Sinclair came out ten days earlier, and admitted to feeling winded after a few rounds his first day sparring. Ellis, who trains in Florida and hails from the Bahamas, arrived in Colorado Springs just before the fight. There are various schools of thought regarding the best way to prepare for a high altitude fight—and some say coming out just before the event is okay. Sinclair’s strategy, however, would give me more peace of mind.
A second before the fourth ended, Ellis tripped over the ref’s foot and somersaulted ass over tea kettle. Although he made a snazzy recovery, popping to his feet like a jack-in-the-box, you wondered if fatigue was setting in.
Both fighters came out like gangbusters in the fifth. It was a duel of sharpshooters, both landing flush several times. Sinclair countered with his geometrical hooks and Ellis came in fat—but got away with it because of his speed. Teddy Atlas had Sinclair up by two going into the sixth. I had him up by one.
The second half of the fight looked to be good. After an unsatisfactory, poorly-matched undercard (more on this later), we had a fan-friendly fight on our hands. Two punchers that had no trouble finding each other on the end of their punches.
Ellis threw a changeup in the next session (if I may apply a baseball metaphor). He came out attacking the body, something he’d previously ignored. Midway through the sixth he caught Sinclair with a strange left to the body, just as the veteran threw a right hook to the head. The punch didn’t look hard. Ellis didn’t turn it over. Rather, it was an open-handed, cupping shot that landed around the back of the ribs.
Sinclair went down immediately, clutching his right side with his left glove. Every part of his body registered pain, from his foot that involuntarily knocking against the canvas to his contorted features. The ref got down to the boxer’s level and gave him a clear, deliberate count. He was never close to beating it.
“No one will know except Sinclair how damaging the punch was,” Atlas commented afterwards. True. But Sinclair is no Daniel Day Lewis—just a blunt reminder of why Hugh McIlvanney calls this “The Hardest Game.”
While the main event was competitive up until the time it ended, the undercard was a series of gross mismatches that should have never, ever been aired on TV.
Light middleweight David Medina of Junction City, Colorado, moved to 11-1 (6) in stopping Charles Blake at 2:02 in the first. Blake fell to 8-7-1 (3). He has lost four of his last five, three by KO.
In another “clash” of light middleweights, Marvin Cordova Jnr. moved his undefeated record to 11-0 (7). He is not a big puncher, despite his decent KO percentage or the results of this (mis)match. He does have fast hands and can box a bit. Darrelle Sukerow, now 13-15-1 (5), should not have been licensed to fight. What he should’ve been permitted to do instead is enter Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest and challenge perennial champ, Tekeru Kobayashi, for his crown. Sukerow had fought only one week earlier, but had mysteriously gained 9.5 pounds between fights—from 139 to 148.5. Not only that, he had to drop three pounds in order to make the contracted weight against the 146.5 Cordova. 12.5 pounds in a week! How many hotdogs is that? It doesn’t matter. Cordova dropped him with a short right to the side of his face. The ref reached ten at 2:26 of the first. (I’ve seen better flops on American Idol. It was a knockdown, not a knockout.)
Super middleweight Carlos De Leon Jnr.—the son of one of the greatest cruiserweights ever—is a strapping 6’2’’ 27-year-old worth keeping an eye on. For one thing, he likes the body, as poor Oscar Monano found out. A series of wicked left hooks downstairs softened up Montano. The last one sent him down in agony at 2:05 in the second. De Leon is now 14-1-2 (11), Montano fell to 2-6-1 (1). While I’ve been anxious to see more of De Leon, this was yet another fight TV viewers shouldn’t have been subjected to.
Saving the best for last, female straweight Chantel Cordova faced Unity Young. After all my years of watching boxing—from white collar shows between septuagenarian Wall Streeters to watching film of “Sugar” Ray Robinson—the 98-pound Young may be the single least prepared, over-matched fighter I’ve ever seen. She is not ready for the prelims of the New York Golden Gloves, to say nothing of being put in a pro fight on national TV. My powers as a writer fail me in trying to describe Ms. Young’s technique. But the white towel was blessedly thrown in the ring at 1:06 of the first. Cordova is now 4-0 (3). Young, winless in two bouts, has lost both times by knockout. As Teddy Atlas said, don’t blame the fighter; blame the managers, the trainers, the commission. Hey, Teddy, love ya, but I gotta blame your employer ESPN as much as anyone. This (and the entire undercard for that matter) had Darelle Sukerow barfing up his hotdogs.