Alexis Rocha halts gutsy late-sub George Ashie in Round 7. Is Terence Crawford next?
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Two takeaways from Alexis Rocha’s chilling one-punch KO of game and durable George Ashie in the seventh round of their main event at YouTube Theater on Saturday:
1. The 25-year-old puncher from Santa Ana, California makes for fun fights when he shares the ring with a willing opponent, which is what he got with Ashie, a late-substitute from Ghana who gave as good as he got for six rounds despite being a 38-year-old junior welterweight.
2. He’s not ready for Terence Crawford.
And yet, that was the main question asked of Rocha (22-1, 14 KOs) during his post-fight interview on DAZN, which streamed the Golden Boy Promotions event live. Interviewer Chris Mannix wasn’t out of line with the question given a tweet that Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya put out on Saturday (as the show at YouTube Theater was starting) consisting of a photo of Crawford and GBP partner and fellow Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins.
🤔hmmm 😱 @terencecrawford and my partner Bernard @GoldenBoyBoxing pic.twitter.com/mnpbJXQCJz
— Oscar De La Hoya (@OscarDeLaHoya) January 28, 2023
That, of course, led to wild speculation of what might be in the works. Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs), a three-division champ and current WBO welterweight titleholder who is No. 3 in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings, has been a free agent for more than a year but a showdown with fellow welterweight star Errol Spence has failed to happen. Rocha, holder of the NABO welterweight title, is currently No. 3 in the WBO’s rankings (behind No. 1-rated Vergil Ortiz, who is also with Golden Boy, and Keith Thurman, who is part of the PBC, which is also home to Spence). Ortiz has a shot at the WBA regular beltholder Eimantas Stanionis on deck for April 29 (although the rescheduled fight hasn’t been officially announced yet).
Spence-Thurman is rumored to be in the works for April or May. So, that means Crawford’s dance card is free for the first half of 2023. Being 35, Crawford doesn’t want to waste any more time. Bud’s a fighter and so is Rocha, so why not have them fight?
“I want the big names now,” Rocha said. “Crawford’s next. That’s the fight I want next. I’m ready for the big names.”
He might be ready for a Conor Benn or a Radzhab Butaev or a David Avanesyan, the latter of whom Crawford starched in six rounds in December, but the experienced elite welters like Bud, Spence and Yordenis Ugas will piece up the version of Rocha that struggled at times with the bold-but-undersized Ashie, who replaced Anthony Young when the Atlantic City spoiler had to pull out with a training injury.
Rocha stalked and punished Ashie’s body from the opening round but the Ghanaian stood his ground, slipped the punches he could and fired back with jabs, right hands and a few body shots of his own. Rocha put the smaller man in his place when he clipped the veteran with a right hook at the end of Round 3, but Ashie (33-6-1, 25 KOs) got up and traded punches during the final 10 seconds.
ALEXIS ROCHA JUST DID THAT 😮#RochaAshie pic.twitter.com/X80HzhD9uA
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) January 29, 2023
The two exchanged power shots in Rounds 4 and 5 even though Rocha’s punches were much harder and the younger man was able to keep Ashie in a corner for much of Round 5. In Round 6 it looked like Ashie had an opportunity to get into Rocha’s head when the Orange County native was sternly warned by referee Thomas Taylor for landing a low blow. Later in the round (after Ashie was given time to recover) an accidental clash of heads opened a nasty cut over Rocha’s left eye. It was the kind of round that would discourage a lot of young sluggers, but Rocha stepped up his pressure and punch output in Round 7, finally blasting Ashie to the canvas with another right hook.
The veteran went out on his shield and did his culture proud. This writer would love to see him face notable fighters his own size (at junior lightweight). Rocha did his hometown fans proud (and they made up the majority of the 3,463 in the theater).
There are those who will call Crawford-Rocha a gross mismatch, and there’s no doubt that Rocha would be a huge underdog. But while it’s true that the young gun isn’t ready for Crawford, that’s also arguably true of every other welterweight in the world. Yeah, Rocha will be better in one year, while Crawford will be a year older, but the Nebraskan will still be a huge favorite. So, why play the waiting game? If the fighters want to fight, let’s sit back and enjoy it.
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