LAS VEGAS – Richard Abril wanted to pick up a win without the judges factoring into the verdict in order to avoid being on the wrong end of a controversial verdict once again.
Abril didn’t quiet his wish, but the gangly stylist tried to make sure he did enough to leave no doubt that he was a better boxer than Sharif Bogere in a very sloppy and dirty fight on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Halfway through the Showtime Championship Boxing headlining bout, the official scorecards still had the fight in reach for the undefeated challenger, Bogere. As the bout moved into the deeper rounds, however, Abril closed the show dominantly.
Abril’s hand was raised after scores of 115-111 and 116-110 (twice) favored the Cuban, who now resides in Miami, Fla.
In the process, THE RING’s No. 5-rated lightweight retained the WBA 135-pound title that he should have won last April, when he handily out-boxed reigning beltholder Brandon Rios in the eyes of everyone but two of the three official judges’ scorecards.
Though the win keeps an alphabet trinket around Abril’s waist, the manner in which he was victorious could possibly keep him out of big-money fights in the future.
“I won the fight, though it was a dirty fight,” said Abril (18-3-1, 8 knockouts) after claiming the victory. “I don’t like fighting dirty fighters and it made me lose my concentration, but I was confident in my corner and the cuts didn’t bother me.”
“I thought I won the fight, I was busier than he was,” said a disappointed Bogere.
In the opening round, Abril did what he said he would do, which was utilize a more aggressive attack as he countered Bogere coming in beautifully, almost at will. That gameplan changed in the second as Bogere landed some wild shots that forced Abril back into his pattern of holding every chance he got on the inside.
Abril boxed brilliantly in the third, doing very little holding and instead using his size and reach advantage to control the distance and make Bogere pay for his lack of class as he rushed in with wide shots. Bogere landed but one good shot in the round. Round four featured more of the same as Abril basically waved Bogere in and countered him with a variety of power shots, from uppercuts to short hooks to straight rights.
Abril’s confidence soared in the fifth as he blasted Bogere (23-1, 15 KOs), a resident of Las Vegas and THE RING’s No. 7-ranked lightweight, with a straight right followed shortly by a nice uppercut that had Bogere on his heels. Bogere’s best landed shots in the fight to this point were with his forehead, as he caused a couple of bad cuts near the eyes of Abril. A headbutt in the fifth caused a halt in the action where the doctor took a look an allowed the fight to continue. The butts were ruled accidental despite them likely stemming from frustration on Bogere’s part.
When action resumed, an actual fight broke out, with Abril tattooing Bogere with hard shots that caught Bogere at full extension. To his credit, Bogere landed some stiff shots in close.
At the halfway point in the fight, Bogere looked lost and without any idea how to turn the tide, though he caught Abril with a good right hand when the Cuban was stuck on the ropes for a split second.
Referee Russell Mora turned in a less than stellar performance, warning Abril at every possible opportunity, including in the seventh when the two tied up and Abril raised his arms to indicate that he wasn’t holding. At the end of the round, Mora spoke to both corners though Bogere had hardly been warned. Round eight opened with Mora taking a point from Abril after a clinch where Abril was not at fault.
Abril started giving Bogere more chances to land in the ninth as the distance between the two shortened, giving the shorter Bogere opportunities inside. Still, it was Abril who was landing at a more consistent clip while also doing more damage. Abril had Bogere’s legs weak in the ninth, though the Cuban was noticeably tiring. Abril’s output took a bit of a dip in the tenth, giving Bogere a chance to steal the round with aggression. Abril resorted back to his old habit of holding whenever Bogere got in close.
In the 12th, Mora took a point from Bogere, which served as a makeup call for the deduction from Abril in the eighth. Abril had clearly done the better work down the stretch, never allowing Bogere to land more than a single shot at a time.
“Whenever I came in, he would push me and use elbows,” said Bogere.
“I didn’t think it was fair that the point was taken away from me.”
Ringside for the fight was highly regarded WBC lightweight titleholder Adrien Broner, who must see value in fighting an opponent other than Abril, who brings an ugly style and not much of a name to the bargaining table. A fight between Abril and IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez would be perhaps one of the ugliest “meaningful” fights that could be made.
Abril may have a belt, but it would be a major surprise to see him in a meaningful televised fight anytime soon, although Vazquez had fought twice on major television in 2012 despite less than scintillating performances. A belt is still a bargaining chip and keeps Abril’s name in the mix whether or not his style suggests he should be.
Mark Ortega is the boxing columnist for the Martinez News-Gazette and is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and the RING Ratings Advisory Panel. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]as well as followed on Twitter @MarkEOrtega.