Badou Jack kept on track in his bid to become a three-weight world champion, as the former super-middleweight and light-heavyweight title-holder snapped the unbeaten record of Connecticut’s Richard Rivera with a ten-round split decision on the Usyk-Joshua bill in Jeddah.
It is almost five years since Jack won a world title fight, but he came into this fight on a four-fight winning run, the last two at cruiserweight in Dubai.
It was a hard-earned win, though, and Jack edged ahead in the later rounds after Rivera came out fast. At 38, whether Jack has enough left to trouble the very best at cruiserweight must be doubted.
“I think I did enough, he had an ugly, awkward style and I fell into his game,” Jack said before saying he wanted another world title shot. “I need to step up my game, I can’t fight like this”
Rivera, 31, came out swinging at the opening bell, landing a right to the side of Jack’s head, forcing the former champion to cover up and clinch. But while Jack was looking to find his range, Rivera kept the pressure coming.
Early in the second round, the pair exchanged rights, with Jack’s shot landing cleaner. He then landed two lefts and a big right, although Rivera took the punch well. But Rivera fired back, first with a right uppercut then, with an overhand right that caught Jack on the temple.
The third was a good round for Rivera too, as Jack struggled to subdue Rivera and pick his slightly wild punches. Jack was having some success to the body, but Rivera was landing with the right hand.
Jack was forcing Rivera back in the fourth round, but Rivera landed well off the ropes. The body attack from Jack was starting to pay off in the fifth round, as Rivera looked as if he was slowing and, after Rivera missed with a right, Jack nailed him with a right, although he didn’t follow it up.
Jack started the sixth with a big overhand right that landed high on Rivera’s head and as Rivera looked to be tiring, he got more ragged.
There was better from Rivera in the seventh, as he got through with the uppercut again, although Jack was the one pushing forward and narrowly missed with a couple of big punches, before landing a crunching right to the body late in the round.
Jack upped the pace in the eighth round, landing two good rights, but it sparked a revival from Rivera and Jack’s right eye was beginning to swell shut. But, late in the round, Jack landed a big left hand that staggered Rivera and then followed it up with a big right and another left as Rivera tried to battle his way out of a corner.
Once again, Rivera came back in the ninth, when he was busier than Jack, although Jack was the one putting the pressure on and in the final round Jack trundled forward and landed the cleaner shots.
All three judges had it 96-94, two of them leaning towards Jack.
“I felt like I did enough, I feel a bit hurt, I believe in the justice system but it failed me there,” Rivera said. “I felt I was outboxing him 90 percent of the fight.”
Ramla Ali’s fight with Crystal Garcia Nova was billed as history, but it was over pretty quick as the East Londoner knocked out Garcia Nova with a peach of a right hand in under a minute.
There had been plenty of media interest in the fight as the first women’s fight to take place in Saudi Arabia, but Ali, who now trains with Manny Robles in California took matters in her own hands.
Two big rights forced the boxer from the Dominican Republic back across the ring and, with Garcia Nova backed up against the ropes, Ali caught her with a big overhand right that knocked out Garcia Nova’s gumshield and sent her to the floor, where she was counted out. It was all over in 55 seconds.
“I feel like I need to go back and do more pads because I didn’t get out of first gear. It’s cool to have a stoppage, though,” Ali said.
“It would be nice to get a ten-rounder next and fight for a title. We’ll see what the future holds, I’m looking forward to having a little break now because my last two fights I have been fighting and training with a fractured wrist and toe.
“But this was a massive opportunity and I couldn’t say no even though I have been in a world of pain.”
Los Angeles-based Saudi boxer Ziyad Almaayouf made a stunning professional debut as he knocked down Jose Alatorre twice on the way to a first-round stoppage.
Confident and hugely popular in Saudi Arabia, the man known as Zizo, who is trained by Buddy McGirt, got involved in a tear-up from the opening bell and was caught by as many punches as he landed in the first minute.
But Almaayouf started to pick his shots better and midway through the round, he dropped Alatorre, who was also making his debut, with a short right hook. Almaayouf took his time as he went for the finish, but another right hook floored Alatorre for the second time, prompting referee Daniel Van de Wiele to wave it off at 2:55.
“It’s been years of years of hard work but it builds up to a few minutes, but what a few minutes,” Almaayouf said.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.