The Aftermath: Tszyu-Fundora, Rolly vs. Pitbull and More

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Michael Rosenthal takes a look back at an epic night of action last weekend from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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Tszyu vs Fundora HIGHLIGHTS: March 30, 2024 | PBC on Prime

Sebastian Fundora did what it took to upset Tim Tszyu and become a world champion for the first time in a horribly bloody fight. Isaac Cruz shut the mouth of Rolando Romero in violent fashion, winning his first world title in the process. Erislandy Lara brutally demonstrated that he has more to give at 40. And Julio Cesar Martinez and Angelino Cordova gave fans a spirited brawl.

Yes, Saturday night’s inaugural PBC Pay-Per-View on Prime Video from Las Vegas was packed with drama.

Here are some thoughts on each of the featured fights and some bonus takes.

Sebastian Fundora Is The New 154-Pound King

Who would have thunk it? Yes, Fundora got a break when his elbow collided with the head of Tszyu and caused a deep cut on the champion’s hairline, leaving him effectively blinded from that point on.

However, as both winner and loser said after, “That’s boxing.” Bad, even bizarre things happen between the ropes. Sometimes the measure of a fighter is whether he or she can take advantage of unforeseen events. Fundora did just that.

“The Towering Inferno” came in with a smart game plan, finally committing fully to using his height and reach advantage. He jabbed incessantly and followed with enough power shots to keep his smaller, but powerful foe at bay and win rounds as Tszyu battled through his red haze in an attempt to remain competitive. 

And Fundora stayed the course through the blood bath, to which he contributed through his nose and mouth.

Tszyu, giving a courageous performance, never gave up. He landed the harder punches, which impressed the judge who had him winning 116-112. The problem for him is that he couldn’t land enough of them in the eyes of the other two judges, who scored it 116-112 and 115-113 for Fundora.

Thus, Fundora (21-1-1, 13 KOs) walked away with Tszyu’s WBO 154-pound belt and the vacant WBC title.

Tszyu (24-1, 17 KOs) did the right thing afterward, giving Fundora credit for his victory. He deserved it. He was coming off a knockout loss to Brian Mendoza, he took the fight on short notice and, again, he had his own bleeding issues.

Still, he was able to beat one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars to become what Tszyu describes as, “The king of 154.”

Meanwhile, Tszyu knows exactly what happened. A massive obstacle was thrown into his face – literally -- in the third round, which made his mission almost impossible. I have no doubt that he’ll heal, get back to the gym and come back with a vengeance.

Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz: A Star Is Born

Rolly Romero played a dangerous game in the lead up to his WBA super lightweight title defense, poking fun at “Pitbull” and suggesting his Mexican opponent was an easy mark in spite of his success.

Cruz crammed Romero’s words back into his mouth, giving a one-sided beating that earned him his first world title and put the other top 140-pounders on notice that a fearsome, seemingly indestructible warrior is on the scene.

Romero, a strong puncher, tried to counter Cruz’s pressure by timing him with hard shots as he was coming in and using his feet to stay out of harm’s way. He couldn’t do it, at least not consistently. Cruz simply pounded Romero (15-2, 13 KOs) – almost at will – until referee Thomas Taylor ended the slaughter 56 seconds into round eight.

I don’t know whether Cruz (26-2-1, 18 KOs) can defeat fellow 140-pound titleholders Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez and Subriel Matias but, if I were their handlers, I wouldn’t feel good about a matchup with him.

Cruz’s style and durability make him next to impossible to defeat. It’s also made him one of boxing’s biggest stars. A healthy portion of the T-Mobile crowd were there to see him and his Instagram follower count has now crossed the one million mark. Not to mention, highlights of his destruction of Romero trended No. 1 on YouTube. A star is born, indeed. 

Erislandy Lara The KO Artist

Boxing can take some strange turns.

Lara carefully built a reputation as one of the best technicians of his era, a well-schooled southpaw who confounded opponents with his sublime skill set and the quickness necessary to take full advantage of it.

Now? The 40-year-old knocks your head off.

The WBA Middleweight World Champion from Cuba did arguably his best impression of a slugger against Zerafa (31-5, 19 KOs) late in round two, when the Aussie missed a jab and Lara countered with his own jab followed by a straight left that rattled Zerafa’s brain and ended the fight.

And he did it 22 months after his previous fight, which had raised speculation that his age and rust could conspire against him.

If you’re counting, that’s three knockouts in a row and fourth stoppage in Lara’s last five fights, evidence that the one-time amateur star has reinvented himself to compensate for any erosion of his speed and reflexes.

OK, OK, Lara (30-3-3, 18 KOs) hasn’t been taking down the top 160-pounders in the world. He wants that to come next, however.

Will anyone be surprised if he acquits himself well against next-level opposition even though he turns 41 on April 11? I won’t. He might not be the same fighter he once was but this version – still sharp, still clever, surprisingly powerful -- is still formidable.

Julio Cesar Martinez Is Still One of The Game’s Most Exciting Fighters

Martinez never really figured out Cordova, an awkward, athletic stick-and-mover who peppered the WBC Flyweight World Champion with light punches and refused to stand still. However, good things can happen if you don’t get discouraged and continue to bring the heat.

That’s what Martinez (21-3, 15 KOs) did. And he was able to retain his title as a result, albeit by a close decision. One judge scored it 113-113 but the other two had the champ defeating Cordova (18-1-1, 12 KOs) by the same score, 114-112.

It was the seventh defense of Martinez’s 112-pound belt (including one no-contest) since he won the title back in 2019, giving the consistent little fighter one of the longer reigns among current titleholders. Only 115-pounder Roman Gonzalez has been able to beat the Mexican since early in his career.

Martinez deserves our respect.

Also …

Serhii Bohachuk (24-1, 23 KOs) demonstrated against a good fighter in Brian Mendoza (22-4, 16 KOs) in preliminary portion of the card that he would be handful for any 154-pounder. The 28-year-old Ukrainian suffocates his opponents with nonstop pressure and heavy hands, as he did against the conqueror of Fundora on Saturday. Mendoza tried to stem the tide but couldn’t do enough to deter his hard-charging opponent. Bohachuk’s only loss came against Brandon Adams, who stopped him in 2021. That’s a lesson for opponents. If you can hurt him, you have a chance. If you don’t, well, things aren’t likely to well. Bohachuk is scary. … Super featherweight prospect Curmel Moton (3-0, 2 KOs) made a strong impression against Anthony Cuba (7-1-2, 3 KOs) before the Bohachuk-Mendoza fight. The 17-year-old protégé of Floyd Mayweather battered a solid opponent en route to winning a shutout eight-round decision. He’s remarkably skillful and poised for his age, which is why his handlers were comfortable with pitting him against a capable opponent in his third pro fight. We might look back on Saturday night years from now and realize that Moton was the best fighter on the card. … One more note on Fundora vs. Tszyu: The winner also made history by joining sister Gabriela Fundora as the other brother-sister combination to hold world titles simultaneously. Is there a happier family in boxing?

For a closer look at Tszyu vs Fundora and Rolly vs Pitbull, check out our fight night page. 

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