By William “Ski” Wilczewski at ringside
The ‘Wizard of Oz’ made an appearance at Tucson, Ariz.’s Desert Diamond Casino yesterday. But the man behind the curtain — Accra, Ghana’s Ossie Duran — couldn’t quite conjure up enough magic to pull off a victory over Nogales, Sonora, Mexico’s David “The Destroyer” Lopez in the headline bout of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. In an action-packed 10-round bout, Lopez (38-12, 25 KOs) took a unanimous decision on all three judges’ scorecards (97-93, 96-94, 96-94) to up his current win streak to 14 straight. Duran (23-8-2, 9 KOs) and his corner men, though, took exception to the decision after leaving the ring relatively unmarked, compared to Lopez’s swollen and slightly bloody right eye.
“You could see me relaxed in the ring. Everything was good. My left jab was good. My rights landed. When he came in, you could see me defend myself,” Duran said. “That’s boxing, and when you defend yourself, you come out clean like me. Look at his face.”
Duran’s advisor, Phil Shevack, didn’t take anything away from Lopez, but also thought his fighter got the short end of the stick.
“We were fighting a world-class fighter, no doubt. But, you can’t expect Ossie Duran to throw every punch and not get hit at all. He’s going get hit, and he did get hit, but he wasn’t hit nearly as much,” Shevack said. “I think there was a disparity in the amount of punches he got hit as opposed to his opponent.”
Lopez, who dropped from the middleweight (160 pounds) to junior middleweight (154) division in this bout, was satisfied with his performance — not having fought at that weight since the late 1990s.
“I felt strong,” he said through his manager and translator Javier Zapata. “Duran is a good fighter. He’s fast and a good counter-puncher, but we knew we had to press, otherwise he would do what he wanted to do.”
So, that’s what Lopez did.
After a close first two rounds, Lopez picked up the pace in the third, using combinations and flurries to keep Duran at bay, then ducking out to reload.
Late in the fight, the 31-year-old Lopez used the same strategy — bringing the near sell-out crowd at DDC to its collective feet at times.
“It’s been one of my toughest fights,” he said. “I learned a lot.”
Lopez plans to take what he learned and climb the World Boxing Council’s super welterweight top five list. He is current ranked No. 4 on that list and is poised take on whoever is above him, including Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Ricardo Mayorga, Alfred Angulo and champion Vernon Forrest.
Going down in weight has been “a good experiment,” Zapata said. “Next time, we’re going to do some different sparring. We’re going to go to L.A. and get some top welterweights, and work on what we need to.”
Duran, on the other hand, doesn’t think he needs to work on much — accept maybe finding a few non-biased judges.
“I won this fight,” he said. “Boxing is all about technique, and learning how to defend yourself and punch, and that’s what I did.”
“(Lopez) was busy, but he was hitting Ossie on the gloves,” added Shevack. “Boxing should be judged on a man’s performance. It’s the artistry of landing shots and dodging or blocking them — like fencing — but not everyone sees that.
“If you throw a lot of punches that don’t land or get blocked, that’s called ineffective aggression,” he added. “If I’m clad in a suit of total steel, and I approach a bear, and the bear is swinging at me and fighting at me but can’t penetrate, the bear doesn’t beat me. And, if I take out the gun and shoot the bear a couple times, I’m the winner. (Ossie) had the guns, and he had the armor.
“I am annoyed,” Shevack said at the end of the press conference, “because when I see a dog that’s been hit by a car, it bothers me because you feel the pain of another creature.”
On the undercard …
* Highly touted junior welterweight prospect Hector Sanchez (18-0, 8 KOs) survived a third round knockdown en route to a eight round unanimous decision over former world champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (33-11-1, 19 KOs). Scores were 77-74, 77-74, 77-74.
* Junior welterweight Karl Dargan (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped Rudy Valdez (2-3, 1 KO) at 2:16 of the fourth and final round.
* 2004 United States Olympian welterweight Rock Allen (15-0, 7 KOs) took a workmanlike six round unanimous decision over Adan Hernandez (14-7, 5 KOs) by scores of 60-54, 58-56, 60-54.
* Lightweight up and comer Hylon Williams (9-0, 3 KOs) swept past veteran Derrick Moon (12-27-1, 3 KOs) by a 40-36 count on all cards.
(Wilczewski is the assistant editor and former sports editor of the Nogales International in Nogales, Ariz.)