HBO's Boxing After Dark had a live doubleheader from the Foxwood's Casino in Connecticut on February 6, 1998.
The first thing of note was the absence of Jim Lampley, who has flown to Japan to cover the Olympics for CBS. Larry Merchant was doing the announcing and did a fairly respectable job. He was wearing some hilariously outdated sun glasses at the top of the show...probably to be able to read the cue cards. Roy Jones was with him.
First question was about Roy pulling out of the Douglas fight. Roy explained that he went to his parents and his mom didn't want him to fight heavyweights...and his father told him that if he moved up to fight heavy, he should wait for the champion in his first fight. He said he would definitely fight Holyfield. Don't stay up waiting for this fight to happen.....
In the first bout, Sugar Shane Mosley was defending his IBF 135. lb belt against Demetrio Ceballos of Panama. Forget waiting in the ring for Hamed to come out of the dressing room....these fighters were in the ring at the very start of the broadcast, and had to stand there for at least 10 minutes while Merchant rambled through his opening remarks and convo with Roy Jones.
In the first, Mosley came out quickly, throwing speedy bombs at Ceballos...definitely looking for KO1. Many punches landed, and Mosley might have had him had he not been a little too excited and overthrowing.
Ceballos showed his game plan in the 2nd was to rush and crowd Mosley...and for brief flashes, it looked effective. But Ceballos often came in wild, and Mosley was able to pick him apart. Hooks to the body, a stiff jab, heavy right hands, and 4, 5 and 6 punch combinations were being dealt out at a rapid pace...and Ceballos went down from some rib splitting body shots. Ceballos got up with more than half a round to go and took a flurry from Mosley that would not end....and some how made it to the bell.
For the next two rounds, Mosley hit and Ceballos took it. It reminded me of that fight Danny Romero had right before he lost to Tapia....the one where his opponent just kept taking his best shots and no one could figure out what was keeping him up.
By the 8th, Ceballos' punches which occasionally landed, looked like they had no steam. Mosley, who had been warned, finally had a point taken for low blows. As referee Eddie Cotton called for the fight to continue after the deduction, Mosley let his hands go and battered Ceballos to the canvas. As Ceballos lay there in the fetal position, there was no guessing who had won.
Mosley turned in the kind of performance that he no doubt had hoped for when he won the title on HBO against Holiday. He showed speed, versatility, serious punching power, and great style. It was a crowd pleasing performance. It should be noted that much was made of the fact that Ceballos had weighed in at 138 and had to run for a few hours to make 135.
However, in a interview at the end of the program, Mosley revealed that he too weighed in heavy....but that he had gotten to the weigh-in early and knew this and had time to sweat it off before the official scaling.
In the main event, William Guthrie was defending his IBF 175 lb. title against former middleweight champ Reggie Johnson. Guthrie was supposed to be the bigger man in the ring, and Johnson was not only coming up directly from 160, but had also had a long layoff.
On Pedro Fernandez's radio show, Guthrie had predicted a win in 2 rounds. At the outset of the fight, Guthrie looked like he wanted to beat his prediction by one round. He came out looking to get rid of the smaller Johnson. But Johnson had other plans. Not only did he wear his 172 pounds well, but he was much quicker than Guthrie and was able to sneak in some strong counters of his own.
He continued to fight on the inside, using his right hook (both men are southpaws) to great effet. By the third, Guthrie, who was unable to impress Johnson with his power, looked visably confused, and Johnson slowly started winning more of the exchanges.
Johnson kept his composure and went to work...and was listening to cornerman Jesse Reid very well. I know there are varying opinions on Reid's abilities as a trainer....but I simply love listening to him talk to his fighters in between rounds. Johnson worked the body in the middle rounds, slowed Guthrie down even more, and took over the fight by the 4th with his speed, his accuracy, and his ability to control the pace.
In the fifth, at right about the time he looked like he was going to settle into a groove and win, Johnson hit Guthrie with a right hook flush. Guthrie's head snapped and he fell straight back to the canvas. His eyes were open but he was out. Referee Steve Smoger counted to seven before waving it off....but Guthrie didn't move a muscle. In fact, he continued to lay there motionless as the ring filled and the winner was announced. He was given oxygen, a neck brace was put on him, he was moved to a board and eventually a stretcher and was taken to the hospital. HBO did not have an update on his condition before going off the air.
Despite a 29- month layoff prior to this bout, Johnson looked good. Roy Jones, and probably the other 175 lb. champions would have eaten either of these fighters alive... but it was a good bout.
HBO redemed itself tonight. BAD has had a few stinkers of cards lately...but tonight's broadcast was excellent. Virgil Hill's cancelled bout was a blessing. And despite the show suffering without Lampley there, Merchant and Jones did us a favor and shut up for quite a bit of the fight. In both bouts, the ring was mic'ed really well and it was a real pleasure to watch two action packed bouts and listen to the punches landing instead of the announcers.