|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - March 17, 2017|
When Amir Mansour stepped out of his corner to answer the opening bell for his fight with Travis Kauffman, it was like he was walking the career plank. At 44 years old, coming off a TKO loss, a draw before that, and not a win on his record since 2015, Friday nightís fight was pretty much do-or-die for the reluctant wrecking machine from South Jersey.
He could have succumbed to age, or the revolving disappointment of his career, which has left him waiting and waiting, either due to politics or his own professional shortcomings. However against Kauffman, Amir Mansour adjusted his usually crude style and fought off his boxing obituary. Over twelve rounds, Mansour scored a close but clear victory over a younger, more confident fighter who was favored, and expected to beat him.
As Mansour trudged out onto that plank for what could have been the last gasp of his boxing career, his face was that usual mix of uncertainty, suspicion, and bad mood. But Mansour, a fighter both in life and in the ring, stepped out and didnít look down. He met the challenge at hand, and managed to keep from falling overboard.
His opponent, performing before his hometown Reading crowd, was charged up, thinner than ever, and full of confidence. The event, before a surprisingly small crowd of less than 2,000 at the suddenly cavernous Santander Arena, felt like it would be a coronation for Kauffman. He was ready to beat the old man and coast forward to a faintly promised crack at Deontay Wilderís WBC heavyweight crown.
With those stakes perhaps more wishful thinking than a solid offer, the fighters would have to settle for two lesser title belts on this night. At stake for the winner was the Pennsylvania state heavyweight championship and the NABF-US title. At least the latter of these two baubles offered a WBC world ranking that might justify, and even help to materialize, that shot at Wilder.
So the fight began and a switch-hitting Kauffman jumped out to an early lead. In the second round, Kauffman wobbled Mansour, and it seemed the old man was about to topple off the plank. However, the left-handed puncher held his ground and persevered the early storm.
Kauffman offered more offense while Mansour stayed in his shell and sorted through complicated feelings and debated his willingness to engage in the battle. Amir landed a good right in the third, but it was Kauffman who kept the lead as he boxed circles around Mansour and tossed in several hard punches of his own.
After four rounds, my score was heavily in favor of Kauffman, and it appeared Mansour was just going to let his career expire. However around the fifth round, Travis started to tire a bit. The slump in his energy has a positive effect on Mansour.
Amir is known for his power and an ability to overwhelm his foes. But if an opponent doesnít crumble at the first punch, Mansour tends to back off and nurse his confidence for a spell. So when Kauffman began to fade, Mansourís confidence surged.
The 44-year old suddenly started to bounce on his toes and his jab began to flick at Kauffman. It was a new Mansour in the middle rounds, a fighter no longer doubting his future, and one who could see a window to victory.
The fifth was close, but by the sixth, Mansour was taking control of the action. He boxed, he punched, and was the one with all the momentum. Kauffman continued to wear down, but stayed in the fight and kept it close through the mid-point.
In round seven, Travis looked gassed and then in the eighth, Mansour turned the tide completely. Amir landed several good power shots Ė right hooks and overhand lefts Ė that hit the mark, had an effect, but couldnít put Kauffman down. Travis showed a good chin and plenty of heart as his energy sapped and Mansourís punches kept coming.
After a string of rounds in Mansourís favor, my card evened and then tilted the old manís way. Amir remained poised, or careful, and never really turned into the desperate swinger of his past. That raging monster might have been more exciting to watch, but this version of Mansour felt more mature, seasoned, and determined to not repeat familiar mistakes.
With the chance of a knockout quickly diminishing and the score still terribly close, it became clear that the final few rounds would determine the outcome.
Both boxers must have felt the urgency, because they stepped on the gas in the tenth and eleventh, and especially in the twelfth. The action went back and forth as they swapped the two rounds before the final. Then the last round was an exciting punch out. With only three minutes left to budget, both boxers swung freely and let it all go. The crowd loved it and the fight ended amid the best exchange of the night.
Official judge Steve Weisfeld called it a 114-114 draw, but he was overruled by Michael Somma, who scored it 115-113 for Mansour, and Anthony Lundy who saw it a surprisingly wide 117-111 for Mansour. My card was in favor of Mansour, 115-113. The referee was Shawn Clark.
The victory improved Mansourís record to 23-2-1, 16 KOs, but more importantly, kept him in the game for one last push toward a championship opportunity. Now all he needs is the lucky break of landing an important fight with either a champion or a top contender.
Amirís performance, or more specifically, his survival instinct and suddenly level head, was impressive. He did what he needed to do, even though it wasnít his natural impulse.
The loss for Travis "My Time" Kauffman, 31-2, 23 KOs, had to hurt, but at 31, heís young enough to still make the best of it. So perhaps his time is yet to come.
After four fairly even rounds, things got nasty in the fifth. The fighters repeatedly bumped heads, but with no damage exchanged. In the final minute, Grayton whacked Cintron with a rabbit punch that momentarily paused the action while referee Gary Rosato issued a warning.
The bout resumed and moments later, southpaw Grayton dropped Cintron with a short right. Kermit got up and continued, but with about ten seconds remaining in the round, an accidental head butt by Grayton opened a slice over Cintronís right eye.
Rosato tried to keep the fight going, but Cintron refused to continue. So the referee escorted Cintron to a neutral corner for the doctor to take a look. Despite the lack of even a trickle of blood, the doctor determined that Cintron could not continue. Rosato signaled the end of the fight and went to the judgesí five-round scorecards for the result.
Anthony Lundy had Cintron ahead 49-46, but both Steve Weisfeld and Adam Friscia scored the bout even at 47-47. The official verdict was a fifth round technical draw. My score favored Grayton 48-46.
RETURNS WITH DECISION
SPRING TOPS WIGGINS
PEREZ WINS ON
DEBUTS WITH WIN
The show was promoted by Marshall Kauffmanís Kings Promotions and the three main bouts, Mansour-Kauffman, Cintron-Grayton and Booker-Aleem, were nationally televised live by Bounce TV.