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Boxing News, September 1, 2006

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Mora’s For Real
Impressive Win Books Possible Title Chance



On a reality TV-studded card, The Contender champ Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora fought an intelligent ten rounds against middleweight Eric Regan. In earning a UD by scores of 98-92 and 97-93 twice, Mora, now 19-0 (4), put himself in position for a high profile fight, possibly against the division’s kingpin Jermain Taylor.

On paper, Regan was a tall order, literally if not figuratively: he’s a freakish 6ft. 4in. Now 26-3 (17), he’s a former world champion kickboxer and owns a win over still-formidable Yory Boy Campos. Mora’s a tall middleweight himself but was dwarfed this night.  It was a strange sight because they have the same reedy body type, except along with Regan’s four-inch height advantage, he’s significantly wider in the shoulders and back.  How he weighed in just a pound over Mora, and within the middleweight limit (160), is magic trick maybe David Blaine can explain.

But what’s all that size worth if you don’t know how to use it?  The recipe is simple: a long stiff jab and feet planted to the canvas at a good distance; then drop in straight rights.  No need to add water.

But if it was that easy we’d see more Tommy Hearnses today, right?

Plus, “The Latin Snake” is slippery, and he prepared well, getting sparring in L.A. with top-ten middleweight Kingsley Ikeke—another freak who can see eye-to-eye with Regan.

Regan threw a lot of jabs but they were not effective.  Sometimes Mora moved his head and slipped inside.  Other times he leapt in with lead rights.  He also used a superior upward-angled jab, which when doubled and tripled up bought him valuable real estate. Once inside, Mora kept his hands busy.  He ripped the middle and touched the head with a variety of short punches.

Regan had hoped to impress his hometown fans at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, but by the last third of the fight, Mora’s confidence was unbridled. He dropped his hands to his waist and dared his man to punch.  One time he drew an imaginary line in the canvas and implored Regan to toe it. In both instances Regan obliged the feisty Mora; both times he got clowned.

As the most successful Contender, Mora has gotten priceless access to “Sugar” Ray Leonard, who has become something of a mentor to him. Sergio is an apt pupil.  He finished most of the rounds with a strong flurry, leaving the impression he dominated the round even if he actually loafed for 2:30. And like Leonard, he doesn’t have massive power but makes up for it with panache.  He works the crowd and the opponent simultaneously. He likes to switch from orthodox to southpaw.  But whereas he used to do it compulsively and for no good reason, he now employs the maneuver at the right time, in the right place—when he’s all the way in or all the way out. He bedeviled Regan with this all night long.

Like American Idol star Kelly Clarkson, Mora is a TV creation who hit the jackpot.  But just as Kelly has an unquestionably good set of pipes, Mora’s pretty nifty with his mitts. Who would have thought there’s some truth in reality TV?

Another popular fighter from The Contender franchise, Alfonso Gomez, fought in an eight-rounder against Carson Jones. On the TV show, Gomez was forced to fight two divisions above his natural weight, and he still did remarkably well.  He’s gritty and willing to take one to get one in, but there’s more to him than just guts.  He puts his punches together nicely and, in keeping with his Mexican roots, works a great left hook to the liver.

Gomez was too strong and experienced for the callow Jones, forcing a TKO stoppage at 2:26 of the 8th.  Jones was disgusted with referee Jack Reiss’ hair-trigger decision, and one could argue he should’ve been allowed to finish the fight.  Gomez, now 15-3-2 (6), wasn’t clobbering him with anything major, and the challenger appeared to have his wits about him, but it was an act prompted by the accumulation of punches.  

Even though Gomez always looks soft, even at 151.75, and is not a devastating puncher, he’s an inexorable force. Like a guy who has been in the heater with bigger, faster, stronger men his whole life—which was certainly the case on the TV show. So when he’s in with someone his own size, he’s unimpressed, certain the poor sap will break under his pressure.

Such was the case with the now 12-3-1 (7) Carson, who, while blessed with fast hands and fleet feet, had no idea what was in store for him until it was too late. His limited defense relied mainly on his legs, and Gomez wasted no idea ripping the body.  When Carson became stationary, and trapped on the ropes, Gomez teed off.

The ref might’ve done Jones bigger favor than he can appreciate. He’s only 20 and has a truckload of heart.  If he can get his skills to match his God-given athleticism, he might turn into something good.  Too many fights like this, though, and it’ll be a moot point.   

The broadcast opened with light heavy Otis Griffin winning a humdrum six-round UD—60-53, 59-54, 58-55—over Nelson Zepeda. Griffin improved to 14-1-2 (5) while Zepeda fell to 9-2-1.

Griffin, who uses the alias “Triple OG”—as in, original gangster—is not much of a threat in the ring, in spite of his record, nickname, or the fact he was the winner of the ill-fated Oscar de la Hoya reality show The Next Great Champ. Just as Oscar is no “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Griffin is no Sergio Mora.  No matchmaker in the world is so talented as to make Griffin, or any member of that cast, the next great champof a recognized alphabet soup sanctioning body.

Of the myriad reasons that show stank, the leading contender might be the meager talent it tried to pawn off on us. A former arena league (American) football player, Griffin illustrates how big, armor-plate muscles don’t make a boxer. And how most fine athletes from other sports look ill-suited to the task when they glove-up, struggling to make the transition no matter how hard they try; the craft and sophistication, the science, is almost always absent. Griffin falls into this category.

He started fast and faded in the second-half of the fight. He looks to be in great condition but is extremely tense inside the ropes—an anti-James Toney. The long-armed Zepeda is more fluid, but nothing to write home about; but he’s only 20 to Griffin’s 29.  

With his decent record—don’t ask about the competition—and the politics of boxing working in his favor, Griffin might one day get the chance to prove this naysayer wrong.

Off TV, Leonel Madrigal won a four-rounder via UD over Luis Medina.  And welter Israel Ornelas improved to 6-1-1 in beating (MD 4) Allan Cepedes.





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