Not too long ago, Oscar DelaHoya's short list of future opponents included the names Terry Norris and Kostya Tszyu. They represented perhaps the best fighters in the weight classes immediatly above and below Oscar's own welterweight division. In 1997, both fighters lost their titles in upsets to Keith Mullings and Cool Vince Phillips, respectively. Tonight, HBO's boxing broadcast featured these two new champions in a live card from the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City New Jersey.

When Vince Phillips knocked out Kostya Tszyu to capture the IBF 140lb. title, he finally captured the title many thought he should have long since won. That victory embedded in Phillips the confidence his game was lacking before. Tonight, he needed little more than two minutes to demonstrate the level at which he is now fighting. Phillips (38-3, 27 kos) quickly established his jab against challenger Alfonso Sanchez (16-2, 16 KOs). After launching a few of the big right hands that won him his title against Sanchez, Phillips detected that Sanchez was dropping his right hand when he threw, and decided to follow his right hand with a left hook. The first time he tried it, it landed effectively. The second time he tried it, he caught Sanchez flush on the head and dropped him. Referee Joe Cortez counted all the way to ten, but the wincing Sanchez made no effort to get up. Phillips KO1.

After the fight, Vince Phillips called out Ike Quartey, the man who previously destroyed him. Phillips' newfound confidence might well make the rematch a competitive fight. Phillips is fighting like a champion, and there seems to be no reason he couldn't compete with anyone at 140 or 147.

In the main event, WBC Super Welterweight (Jr. Middleweight) Champion Keith Mullings (16-4-1, 11 KOs) put his fresh title on the line against #1 ranked challenger David Ciarlante (23-1, 13 kos). Mullings, too, showed a new maturity and confidence in the ring tonight. He only needed five frames to grossly disfigure the face of his Italian Challenger. Mullings began the fight establishing his jab, and methodically testing his opponent for weaknesses. Straight rights, double left hooks, a heavy jab, and a committed body attack were all thrown in the first round to find a hole in Ciarlante's guard. Mullings quickly found that a looping right to the body and his stick were landing at will. And so Mullings went to work. Never overanxious, never trying too hard, Mulling went out for the remainder of the fight and patiently picked apart his opponent. In the fourth round Ciarlante's nose was broken, and his face began to swell. Mullings landed jabs, elbows, shoulders, and forearms into his opponent's swelling head until the referee stopped the fight after five rounds. Mullings TKO5. At the time of the stoppage, Ciarlante was still the busier figher, although he was no longer recognizable. Mullings showed poise and maturity in this fight, and his stock is certainly higher than his record might reflect. While my scorecard reflected a Mullings shutout, the Atlantic City judges had the fight a split draw at the time of the stoppage. One judge, Barbara Perez (wife of referee Tony Perez,), actually had the outmatched Ciarlante ahead four rounds to one. One can only wonder who Larry Hazard will asign to Lewis-Briggs next month.

Oscar DelaHoya was at ringside for this fight. After both men turned in punishing, power-punch laced and impressive performances, one has to wonder how eager DelaHoya is to get into the ring with either opponent. In an interview in between the two bouts, DelaHoya said that he felt his biggest fights would come at 154 lbs (a weight he himself said was 4-6 fights away). It seemed DelaHoya's way of stating that he was going to avoid Trinidad and Quartey until he moved up in weight. One wonders if he'll avoid Phillips and Mullings as well.


"In the first round, I hit him and he laughed. In the second round, I hit him and he sneered.In the third round, he knocked me out."

-Vince Phillips after his kayo loss to Ike Quartey

.....Chris Bushnell



© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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