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 get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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