Tonight on Versus was a two fight card, featuring prospect Victor Ortiz against veteran Emmanuel Clottey (brother of welterweight contender Joshua Clottey), and Miguel Huerta headlining against former USBA lightweight champion Efren Hinojosa for the NABF lightweight crown.
Victor Ortiz (19-1-1, 14 KOs) TKO10 Emmanuel Clottey (24-8, 14 KOs)
Yawn. This was supposed to the biggest test of Ortiz's young career. And it could have been, had Clottey shown any interest in fighting. But he barely threw a punch the whole way through, content to slip and weave and move around and generally make a boring night for everyone. Worse yet, at the end of every round Clottey flexed like he was doing something impressive. The referee didn't help by docking Clottey for two BS infractions, making the bout even more of a joke than it was already. With about 30 seconds left in the final round, Ortiz finally cracked Clottey and sent him to the canvass. Clottey made it up and didn't look too hurt, but Ortiz kept the pressure and knocked Clottey down again with just a few seconds to go (I actually thought he cuffed him, but whatever). The referee then waved off the fight at 2:59 of round ten. Meh. Had it gone to the scorecards, it would have been three judges putting it 100-86, so it hardly mattered.
Clottey's handlers have to take a close look at him and see if he wants to keep fighting, because he definitely did not look like he wanted to be in the ring tonight. As for Ortiz, he did what he had to do, but tonight was not the sort of evening where he could either display his assets or show his mettle. He needs to take another fight that would fill the role that Clottey should have.
Miguel Huerta (24-8-1, 17 KOs) UD12 Efren Hinojosa (29-4-1, 17 KOs)
Why is it that every time I see Lawrence Cole referee, or hear about him, it's always because he's doing something incompetent? It is unbelievable that this man is ever let near a major fight--except that his daddy is a bigwig in the Texas boxing establishment. It's all the worse that he was in this fight, particularly, as Miguel Huerta was on the wrong end of probably the worst decision in 2007 with a bogus split decision loss to Kid Diamond back in June. That was a fight every observer had Huerta ahead handily before he knocked down Diamond in the 11th. This fight was for redemption, and I would have thought that everybody would do their best to make sure that nothing would go wrong.
Alas, tonight was a typical performance for Cole. In the second round, Huerta stunned and then knocked down Hinojosa with crunching left hooks. Hinojosa was clearly hurt and Huerta pursued, knocking his opponent down again. As soon as Hinojosa went down for the second time, Cole waved his arms, and everybody, from Huerta (who started celebrating) to the announcers assumed the fight was over. In fact, I think even Hinojosa thought so, because he looked very confused when Cole signaled for him to get up. Whoops! Turns out, Cole was ruling knockdown number two a slip! So the fight continued, and at the end of round two, Hinojosa (who managed to get his legs under him) cracks Huerta with a big right hand--a full second after the bell rang. Did Cole do anything about it? Nope. Did Cole see it? Who knows? Did Cole see it when Hinojosa did it again after round three? Apparently not--no warning, no nothing.
So the fight continues, and Huerta opens up a nasty cut over Hinojosa's eye. So between rounds Hinojosa's corner takes a look at it, and tries to stem the bleeding. And the doctor takes a look at it, to make sure he's okay to fight. Now my understanding is that between rounds, a fighter doesn't get extra time while the doctor looks at it (if that happens, it usually is a timeout right at the start of the next round). But even if they do, the doctor was not examining Hinojosa for a minute and three seconds. But apparently the time keeper thought he was, because the announcers established that the break between rounds lasted a full two minutes, three seconds. Cole, for his part, kept stopping the fight with about 15 seconds to go in a round to have the doctor check the cut again--even though nothing had really changed--apparently just so nobody could enjoy the action too much.
Amazingly, despite all of this, the fight actually was rather entertaining. Hinojosa found his legs and, while he was outclassed by Huerta all night, had his moments and fought with grit and determination. The scores were pretty wide (I believe all of them had Huerta winning at least ten of the twelve rounds), and I think that's right, but it's also deceptive for the performance Hinojosa put on. Unlike Clottey, he is not done and can continue his campaign with pride.
Huerta, by contrast, is really starting to blossom. Everyone knows he beat Kid Diamond, a bona fide top ten guy, and he looked quite solid tonight as well. In a way, he reminds me of Carlos Baldomir--another fighter with a bunch of losses on his record who really bloomed late in his career. Huerta looked very sharp, has considerable power in both hands (and can fight both orthodox and southpaw), and is definitely starting to find his rhythm (I would say late in his career, but he's only 29). With five knockout losses his chin is a lot more questionable than the granite Baldomir, but he deserves to be looked at seriously within the lightweight picture. Indeed, the only person present who should be barred from participating in any future boxing matches is Lawrence Cole. But we knew that already.