In the most recent installment of ShoBox’s super middleweight tourney, American LaFarrell Bunting made the most of an opportunity, filling in on four day’s notice for injured Sakio Bika. He TKO’d Colombian Jose Luis Herrera at 1:20 of the 5th round.
Bunting, now 16-1-1 (16), had a respectable amateur career, winning the National Junior Olympics in 1997 and competing in over 200 matches. As a pro, he has flown under the radar, facing soft opposition and letting his weight seesaw from 169 to 191. This was the first bout where he’s come in at or below the supper middleweight limit (168).
Like most Colombians fighting in the U.S. for the first time, Herrera, now 14-2 (14), was a mystery to us. But his last win (TKO 4) was over the ageless Jorge Castro in the other’s hometown, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Castro may lose to good fighters but he doesn’t get stopped—only once in 143 contests, and that was against one of the best cruiserweights ever, Juan Carlos Gomez.
Maybe Castro is getting old, after all? Herrera didn’t impress on Showtime.
There was little action in the first as both fighters read each other. Presumably, their spotless KO records had them duly respectful of the other’s power. But they were so far apart, there was nothing to fear.
This continued through the second and the majority of the third. As Herrera inched forward, Bunting took half-steps back. Neither letting their hands go, they were intent on finding openings rather than create them. I thought I heard someone’s stomach gurgle, the room was so silent.
With 30 seconds left in the third, a skirmish broke out on the ropes. The long-armed Bunting got the better end of it, but inexplicably backed away after landing his best shot of the night, a left hook. Both looked amateurish during the brief exchange: Bunting brought his hands back low and raised his chin in the air like a lantern in a storm; Herrera had awful balance.
Early in the fourth, they traded again. Herrera worked the body with Bunting on the ropes. A sharp counter from Bunting allowed him to turn his man and give some back. Herrera eventually trapped him on the ropes again, but was wild and off balance during his assault. Still, it was his best round.
In the beginning of the fifth, Herrera reached with a right that fell short. Bunting countered with a left hook over the top. It was his best shot of the night, landing square on the jaw. Suddenly, Herrera wasn’t eager to move forward; he opted to stand in place and move his head.
Bunting smelled blood. He drove Herrera to the ropes and worked him over for 20 seconds. It wasn’t graceful, but a left to the ribs, a straight right, and some uppercuts and hooks up top mixed in, all did damage. When Bunting sets his feet, he gets good leverage on his punches.
Herrera fell back into the nearest corner. In what I perceived as a tacit act of surrender, he spread his arms and lay them over the ropes. Referee Kenny Bayless—one of our best—jumped in quickly. He didn’t stop the fight but called it a knockdown and began his count. Upon finishing, he asked the fighter to walk towards him and tell him he was OK. Herrera’s eyes seemed clear but his legs weren’t completely there. Moreover, he didn’t respond properly, half-stumbling to his own corner. Bayless immediately halted the bout—a smart call.
In the semifinals—October 6—Bunting will face fellow American Anthony Hanshaw. While Bunting’s amateur background is respectable, Hanshaw’s is stellar. He beat Sechew Powell, Kelly Pavlik and The Contender winner Sergio Mora. The only top pro to lick him was middleweight champ, Jermain Taylor. Hanshaw lost to Taylor twice in 2000, in the Olympic trials and boxoffs, even though he was expected to win.
Hanshaw, now 20-0 (13) after shutting out Mexican Esteban “Rocky” Camou, is a better pure boxer than Taylor. He’d almost certainly be a top contender today if not for a pair of long layoffs—inactive in ’03 and ’05—that he initiated when his passion for boxing waned.
He ended his sabbatical in June, and showcased an array of offensive and defensive skills in his second fight back. All three judges awarded him a UD by shutout: 100-90.
Camou, now 19-2 (16), was embarrassingly outclassed. He had no answer for the boxer’s hand and foot speed, his slick defense, his dominant jab, his sophisticated use of the ring. His only chance was to draw Hanshaw into a war on the inside, and the Ohio native was far too disciplined to fall pray to some weak macho taunts.
Technically speaking, it was as gross a mismatch as can be made. (So much for being the Mexican Super Middleweight Champion—I’m sure it means something if you’re a featherweight.) The only negative Camou revealed about Hanshaw is a dearth of crackling pop. Either that or Camou has a good beard. The possible mental/emotional shortcomings of Hanshaw won’t be known until his resolve is tested against a quality opponent.
Premature though this may be, I say that time will come on January 7, 2007. That’s when the tournament finals take place, and when (I believe) we’ll see a worthy scrap between Hanshaw and fellow contestant Jean Paul Mendy.
In off-TV action, jnr. welterweight Jorge Alberto Padilla won a 6-round UD over Dominick Chavez.