LAS VEGAS – Kevin Cunningham couldn’t watch Erickson Lubin absorb any more damage to his face after the ninth round Saturday night.
Lubin’s respected trainer told referee Russell Mora Jr. to stop his highly competitive, entertaining battle with Sebastian Fundora because Lubin had suffered severe swelling between and around his eyes. Fundora won by technical knockout, remained undefeated and won the vacant WBC 154-pound championship.
Orlando’s Lubin, who survived a brutal knockdown during the second round, was ahead on two scorecards at the time their slugfest was stopped.
Judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld had Lubin in front by the same score, 85-84, when Mora halted the action. Judge Tim Cheatham had their brutal battle even, 85-85, through the ninth round.
According to CompuBox’s unofficial statistics, however, Fundora landed 106 more punches than Lubin (255-of-706 to 149-of-368). CompuBox counted more power punches for Fundora (233-of-541 to 116-of-243) and more jabs for Lubin (33-of-125 to 22-of-165).
Nevertheless, by winning the WBC interim super welterweight title, the 6-foot-6 Fundora (19-0-1, 13 KOs) became that sanctioning organization’s mandatory challenger for the winner of the Jermell Charlo-Brian Castano rematch May 14. Houston’s Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) and Buenos Aires’ Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) will fight again to become boxing’s first fully unified 154-pound champion of the four-belt era in a “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event next month from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California
Fundora, 24, produced the most impressive victory of his five-year, 20-fight pro career. He got up from a knockdown late in the seventh round, recovered to become competitive again in the eighth round and won the ninth round, when the swelling on Lubin’s face worsened to the degree Cunningham couldn’t, in good conscience, allow him to continue.
“You could say that it was the hardest fight of my career,” Fundora told a group of reporters after his huge win. “He made me take a knee, you know? He made me think a little bit. But it was a great fight. We gave, both of us, Lubin and me, we gave the fight that we wanted to give to everybody. It was an ‘Inferno.’ ”
Lubin, 26, lost for the first time in seven fights since suffering a devastating defeat to Charlo in October 2017. Charlo knocked out Lubin (24-2, 17 KOs), then the mandatory challenger for Charlo’s championship, with one punch in the first round that night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Fundora swarmed Lubin during the ninth round and landed the more effective punches in those three minutes. Both boxers appeared exhausted after that round ended.
Cunningham wasted no time as he walked up the steps in telling Mora to stop the fight.
After flooring Fundora toward the end of the seventh round, Lubin started the eighth round in spite of the obvious damage done to the middle of his severely swollen face.
Lubin got the better of the action in the eighth round, but he couldn’t hurt Fundora again.
A right uppercut by Fundora changed the fight a little less than 40 seconds into the seventh round. Fundora promptly backed Lubin in the ropes and unloaded numerous power punches on Lubin’s noticeably damaged middle of his face.
Lubin courageously fought back, though, and buzzed Fundora with a right-left combination that made Fundora move away from him. Sensing Fundora was ready to go, Lubin then landed two more hard left hands and Fundora fell to the canvas.
Fundora beat Mora’s count and bought himself some time by spitting out his mouthpiece. The action resumed before the bell rang, but Lubin didn’t have much time to capitalize on the damage he had done.
“I was a little bit buzzed,” Fundora said. “I took that knee because I needed it to recollect myself and, by the time I got back up, I was fine.”
Lubin landed a hard right hook up top and then a left to Fundora’s body about 30 seconds into the sixth round. Another right hook by Lubin landed up top just after the midway mark of the sixth round.
Lubin landed another left-right combination with just about a minute to go in the sixth round. A right-left combination to Fundora’s body also connected just before the sixth round concluded.
A sweeping right hook by Lubin landed with just under a minute to go in the fifth round. Lubin continued to land to Fundora’s body during the fifth round as well.
Fundora was the aggressor again in the fourth round, yet Lubin continued to box effectively off his back foot, both to Fundora’s body and head. A right hand by Lubin backed Fundora near the ropes toward the end of the fourth round.
Fundora badly hurt Lubin and dropped him late in the second round. Lubin recovered well enough, though, to start the third round on strong legs.
The resilient southpaw fought well off the ropes, landed a variety of power shots on his huge opponent and made Fundora respect him, despite that troublesome moment late in the second round.
Lubin buzzed Fundora with a left hand in the final minute of the second round. He attacked Fundora and landed another hard left, but a resilient Fundora fought back.
He uncorked a right uppercut that knocked Lubin to the canvas. A stunned Lubin used the ropes to reach his feet.
By the time Mora wiped off his gloves, the bell rang to end the second round, which prevented Fundora from capitalizing on that knockdown.
Fundora landed a right hook in the opening minute of the second round. Lubin tried to cover up, but Fundora promptly penetrated his guard with a left hand, too, as Lubin backed into the ropes.
Lubin consistently threw jabs at Fundora’s midsection during the first round, which helped keep his taller, rangier opponent at the type of distance he didn’t want.
Fundora snuck a left hand through Lubin’s guard in the middle minute of the first round. Lubin landed a hard jab about 30 seconds into the opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.