SportsMap weekend boxing rewind

Bivol survives scare to beat Smith

Dmitry Bivol lands a jab to the body of Joe Smith. (Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.)

Light heavyweight titleist Dmitry Bivol won a wide decision in his mandatory defense against Joe Smith Jr. on Saturday night in Verona, NY. Bivol (16-0, 11 KO) defended his World Boxing Association title by scores of 119-109 (x2) and 118-110. SportsMap.com also scored the fight 118-110 in favor of Bivol.

Despite the wide scores, Bivol had to survive a scare to get the win. At the end of the tenth round Bivol ate a huge right hand from Smith right as the bell rang. The punch staggered Bivol, who retreated to his corner holding onto the ropes. Bivol returned for the 11th round still not looking like himself, facing more hard shots from Smith (24-3, 20 KO) in the penultimate round than he seemingly did for the rest of the fight combined. For much of the 11th it looked like one well-placed shot from Smith could end the fight in a stunning come from behind knockout victory for the challenger from Long Island. But Bivol retained his form in the 12th round, nearly stopping Smith on his feet. Referee Gary Rosato looked in position to wave off the fight because of the accumulation of punches Bivol was landing, but Smith was saved by the final bell.

Smith, who is best known for his monster knockout of Bernard Hopkins that ended his career in 2016, looked to be at a boxing skill disadvantage from the opening bell. Bivol controlled the tempo easily winning the first nine rounds of the fight, staying out of trouble before the aforementioned right hand that changed the fight late. It was the second loss in three fights for Smith, who has struggled with jaw injuries recently. Smith lost a unanimous decision to Sullivan Barrera in 2017.

Bivol, who is aligned with Matchroom Promotions and the DAZN streaming service, now faces difficulty finding a big fight at light heavyweight because the other titlists at that weight are aligned with other networks. Bivol did mention that he will considered moving down to super middleweight, where a fight with WBA super champion and DAZN stablemate Callum Smith would be an easier fight to make.

SATURDAY IN CARSON: PORTER GETS GIFT AGAINST UGAS

Welterweight titlist Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO) retained his WBC belt on Saturday in a wildly unpopular split decision victory over challenger Yordenis Ugas. Porter won by scores of 115-113 and 116-112. The third judge scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Ugas. SportsMap.com scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Ugas. The crowd booed wildly when the decision was announced.

Porter, who is known for his physical, all-action style, was neutralized through much of the fight by Ugas (23-4, 11 KO,) who was able to constantly disrupt Porter's normal pace. The fight featured many difficult to score rounds throughout.

The fight could have turned in the 12th round when Ugas appeared to floor Porter with a looping right hand. Veteran referee Jack Reiss didn't score the blow as a knockdown, instead ruling that Porter slipped. Replays show the punch should have been ruled a knockdown. As the final bell sounded Ugas raised his hands in the air and celebrated; the face of a man who felt he won. Porter looked stunned, and as if he had resigned to the fact that he had been defeated.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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