Feature Story

Anatomy of a slugfest

By Phil Doherty
Photo: Carlos Suarez Jr./ fightimages.com

Boxing fans are generally willing to pay top dollar prospecting for the real-time drama of a full-blown battle royale along the lines of Gatti-Ward or Marquez-Vazquez; yet so rarely do these gems materialize. However, this past Friday night in Hollywood Florida, fans witnessed two hard-as-diamond warriors push themselves and each other past rarefied thresholds of endurance and pain.

Appearing on the undercard of Acquinity Sports’ “D Day II: Dominican Domination” card were two non-Dominican fighters with a score to settle. On paper, the 10-round contest between 40-year old former WBA interim light heavyweight world champion Richard “The Destroyer” Hall (30-10, 28 KOs) of Jamaica and 33-year old Cuban former cruiserweight Humberto “El Don” Savigne (9-1, 7 KOs) bore the familiar markings of a gatekeeper’s test for the former Cuban Olympian.

In the ring the matchup proved to be an absolute war.

The bad blood between these two began at the previous day’s weigh-in, when Hall started jawing at Savigne, who responded with a throat-slitting gesture. A visibly incensed Hall had to be physically removed from the dais as the shouting continued unabated.

Entering the ring with the sounds of Bob Marley’s “Exodus” blasting from the arena’s PA proved prophetic as the power-punching lefty was about to embark on six rounds of life-or-death combat few of the roughly 2,500 fans in attendance expected.

At least one ringside observer knew full well what was coming though. Legendary matchmaker and Florida Boxing Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bos had also matched Hall in this very arena just two fights before, when Hall took on former cruiserweight world champion O’ Neill “Give ‘Em Hell” Bell (27-4-1, 25 KOs).

In that mêlée, Hall absorbed tremendous right hands from his fellow Jamaican countryman before dishing out repeated right hook-straight left combos; ringing O’Neill’s bell and earning himself a 2nd-round TKO victory.

Hall kicked off the attack with right hooks and straight lefts, pushing forward on the offensive. Savigne responded with right-hand counters in an attempt to counterpunch “The Destroyer’s” aggressiveness. Savigne found pay dirt with a crushing right uppercut that appeared to stun Hall. “El Don” poured it on but didn’t catch the incoming looping left hand that left him dazed. Showing his resiliency, Savigne responded with heavy hooks upstairs.

Both fighters returned to their corners winded from the sudden and savage war of attrition.

After a momentary pause to clear ice from Savigne’s corner, referee Frank Santore Jr. let the action resume and a less aggressive Savigne attempted to get back to his boxing blueprint. It seemed to work as he found purchase with sharp right hands and three-punch combinations. Despite a low-blow warning from Santore, Savigne controlled the action, which prompted Hall to start punching his own face in a sign of his desire to brawl.

Incredibly, action heated up in the third when Hall struck his own rhythm behind devastating long left hands. Savigne stuck to his guns, shooting off multiple lead right, left hook counters to hurt Hall once more. Hall relished the attack and blasted more jabs and left hands to Savigne’s head, knocking him to the canvas. Santore immediately ruled the punch landed behind the head however and Hall had to content himself with winning the round rather than finishing his foe.

Savigne’s cornerman Herman Caicedo implored his man not to engage “The Destroyer” in between rounds and after the bell to start the fourth. Once again Savigne heeded the coaching and led the charge with crisp right hands, racking up another round for his troubles.

Savigne carried the assault into the fifth, snapping Hall’s head back with quick jabs and heavy right hands. Not to be outfought, the vicious Jamaican warrior struck with a chopping right hook to gain Savigne’s attention. Following that up with a one-two combination, Hall regained the advantage as a wobbly Savigne backed away. Every blow reverberated with a sound like trucks hitting trees. Hall landed a right uppercut at the retreating Savigne, forcing the Cuban to touch one knee to the canvas. Santore never saw it and the bloodied Savigne held on for dear life as blood gushed from his nostrils. Hall vainly chased the brave Cuban looking to land just one more finishing blow.

It never came as Savigne survived the round and willed himself back to his corner.

Revived, Savigne struck back to start the sixth. Launching a fusillade of rights and with blood pouring in twin rivulets down his face, Savigne threw everything he could at the advancing “Destroyer.” The smell and sight of blood emboldened Hall and he aggressively came forward. Savigne wisely boxed through the danger and landed thudding right and left hooks to Hall’s midsection.

Savigne took his attack upstairs and found an opening for an absolute beauty of a left-hook, snapping Hall’s head sideways and depositing the former champ in a heap on the floor. Rising on pure will and heart, Hall attempted to defend a bevy of one-twos from Savigne, but couldn’t stay the inevitable and Santore mercifully waved off the abuse at 2:47 of the round.

Recognizing the rare beauty of the spectacle they’d just witnessed, fans erupted into a spontaneous standing ovation for both brave warriors. Granted, neither man may make it to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Neither may have statues erected in their honor, but both displayed the fan-friendly style of boxing that so few of us get a chance to enjoy with any regularity these days.

Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.

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