Brian Norman Jr. nearly knocked out Rodrigo Coria within the first 30 seconds of their fight Saturday night.
A resilient Coria commendably withstood that onslaught, though, and took the welterweight prospect the distance in Norman’s promotional debut with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. The 22-year-old Norman, of Conyers, Georgia, didn’t get the knockout he sought, but he won an eight-round unanimous decision on the Efe Ajagba-Stephan Shaw undercard at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Judge Glenn Feldman scored seven of the eight rounds for Norman (79-72), but judges Don Ackerman (77-74) and Tom Schreck (77-74) gave Coria credit for a more competitive contest.
Norman (23-0, 19 KOs) went the distance for the fourth time in a career he launched when he was only 17 years old. Argentina’s Coria (10-5, 2 KOs), a southpaw who was knocked down early in the eighth round, has not been knocked out in any of his 15 professional fights.
It looked like a fatigued Norman might get a knockout after all, when he caught Coria with a left hook that sent Coria to his gloves and knees just 28 seconds into the eighth and final round. But Coria quickly answered referee Mark Nelson’s count and took Norman’s subsequent shots well enough to make it to the final bell.
Prior to that eighth round, however, Coria tested Norman.
Coria nailed Norman with a straight left hand that made Norman move toward the ropes with 40 seconds to go in the seventh round. Norman came back with power punches of his own to keep Coria from building on that momentum.
Coria cracked Norman with a straight left hand that snapped back his head with just over 1:50 to go in the fifth round. Norman attempted to tie up Coria a few seconds thereafter.
Norman let his hands go more in the second half of the fifth round, but he seemed fatigued by then and his punches didn’t have the impact those shots had earlier in their fight.
Coria came forward throughout the fourth round and out-landed Norman in those three minutes.
Norman connected with various punches in the third round, but Coria took his power well during those three minutes.
Norman bombarded Coria with an array of power punches that Coria somehow survived in the opening 30 seconds of their fight. One of Norman’s right hands wobbled Coria less than 20 seconds into the opening round, but Coria remained on his feet.
In the following fight Saturday night, Bryce Mills landed the harder shots consistently to shut out Margarito Hernandez on all three scorecards in their six-round welterweight fight.
The 21-year-old Mills (11-1, 4 KOs), of nearby Liverpool, New York, won by the same score, 60-54, according to judges Feldman, Eric Marlinski and John McKaie. Hernandez (3-4-1, 0 KOs), of Wapato, Washington, avoided a second straight knockout defeat, but he took numerous flush punches and left the ring with significant swelling beneath both of his eyes.
Earlier Saturday, Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington went the six-round distance in a second straight fight, but the undefeated featherweight prospect kept his perfect record intact.
Brooklyn’s Carrington shut out Mexican veteran Juan Antonio Lopez on all three scorecards and won a unanimous decision. Ackerman, Schreck and Trella each scored Carrington a 60-54 winner.
The 25-year-old Carrington upped his record to 6-0 (3 KOs). The 29-year-old Lopez (17-13-1, 7 KOs), a southpaw who resides in Dallas, is 0-4-1 in his past five fights.
Carrington controlled the final round by maintaining his distance and landing jabs and right hands, but he couldn’t hurt Lopez.
Carrington caught Lopez with a flush right hand that got Lopez’s attention barely a minute into the fifth round. Another right hand by Carrington moved Lopez backward several seconds before the fifth round ended.
Lopez consistently went to Carrington’s body in the first three rounds and offered some resistance for the top prospect. Carrington had a strong fourth round, however, when he landed his jab and right hands with more frequency than he had connected with in the first three rounds.
In the first fight Saturday night, light heavyweight prospect Dante Benjamin screamed “this is my year” as he leaped onto the ropes following his quick knockout of previously unbeaten Emmanueal Austin.
Cleveland’s Benjamin blasted Austin with a devastating left-right combination that dropped him with 38 seconds to go in the opening round of their six-rounder. Referee Mark Nelson allowed Austin to continue once he reached his feet, but Benjamin bombarded him with power punches that left him all but out on his feet.
Nelson then stepped between them to halt the action at 2:50 of the first round.
The 20-year-old Benjamin improved to 5-0 and recorded his third knockout. New Orleans’ Austin (6-1, 6 KOs) had won each of his first six professional bouts by first-round knockout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.