Photo: Tom Casino / Showtime
ShoBox is typically a telecast dedicated to showcasing young boxing prospects, but Friday night the broadcast featured two talented veterans who have both been on the sidelines of the sweet science for more than 20 months. The two seasoned boxers shook off the ring rust Friday and went back to work at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California.
Andre Dirrell (24-3, 10 KOs) was just as dominant as ever en route to knocking out Darryl Cunningham (24-3, 10 KOs) in the second round of their co-main event bout. Dirrell knocked his opponent down twice before the referee halted the action. Dirrell looked to be in excellent form against an opponent who won 17 straight bouts before falling to Dirrell Friday night.
Jermain Taylor (24-3, 10 KOs) performed on cruise control against game opponent Jessie Nicklow (22-3-3, 8 KOs) in the main event, resulting in a controversial 8th round stoppage. Nicklow vehemently protested the referee's decision to call a halt to the fight after the first time Nicklow seemed at all stunned in the fight. Taylor told analyst Steve Farhood after the bout that he hurt his right hand early in the fight and had to rely on his jab for the bulk of the contest.
Both ShoBox headliners were also former participants in Showtime's Super Six Boxing Classic with Taylor bowing out after his second loss in the Super Middleweight tournament and Dirrell forced out of the competition after sustaining an injury in winning by disqualification against Arthur Abraham. Friday marked Taylor's first fight in 26 months while Dirrell was out 21 months before stepping into the ring against Cunningham.
“I am just so happy to be back,’’ said Dirrell after this first fight since March 27, 2010. “I wanted it to go further, but I felt really good. My hands felt lighter, my feet felt fast. I’d say I fought at about 99.5 percent, which was more than I could ask for. Time will tell what I do next, but I’m going to continue to work hard. There is such a small window. I’m 28 years old. I’m just going to continue to push forward, But I can finally see the big picture again.’’
Taylor's performance was much less impressive than Dirrell's despite the fact that he dropped down to middleweight for this bout. Nicklow seemed to be about three times smaller than Taylor, but he never went down in the fight and likely would have gone until the final bell if the referee let him keep fighting. Taylor fought in spurts, coming at Nicklow with mostly jabs in the later rounds and only fighting when he really had to. He was miles ahead on the scorecards by the time the fight came to a close, but he definitely could have been more aggressive. Nicklow simply presented no great threat to bring a sense of urgency out of Taylor and force him to take the smaller fighter out. Nicklow did manage to get under Taylor's skin with his mouth, though, and Taylor earned a point deduction when he popped his opponent after the bell closing the sixth round.
The veteran admitted after the fight that he looked at the bout as a tune up and would have to step up the competition in future fights. He also apologized to fans in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas for losing his cool against Nicklow with the late hit.
“I felt a little rusty but as the rounds went by I got more comfortable,’’ Taylor said to Farhood in the post-fight interview. “I wanted to try and go in there and have some fun. We’ll see where I go from here.’’
In the opening bout of the televised card, former Cuban amateur standout Luis “El Leon” Garcia (12-0, 9 KOs) of Cork, Ireland, won his United States debut, dealing southpaw Alexander “The Great” Johnson (12-1, 5 KOs, 1 NC) of Oxon Hill, Maryland his first defeat by way of a lopsided eight-round decision.