Emmanuel Rodriguez wins bantamweight world title with impressive victory on the road


LONDON — Emmanuel Rodriguez enjoyed a comfortable and untroubled points win over Paul Butler to win the vacant IBF world bantamweight title on the undercard of the Tony Bellew vs. David Haye heavyweight rematch on Saturday.

Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) came close to forcing a first round stoppage and then dominated for verdicts of 118-108, 120-1016 and 120-106 in front of the English boxer’s home crowd at the O2 Arena, London.

Butler (26-2, 14 KOs), from Merseyside, was down twice in the first and Rodriguez lost some of his early effervescence, as he was content to contain rather than stop Butler late on.

“I found it easier than I should have done, but a win’s a win,” Rodriguez said.

Butler, 29, was over the division limit at Friday’s weigh-in, meaning he could not win the same belt he won from countryman Stuey Hall in 2014.

Butler gave up the IBF bantamweight title to drop down a division to fight South Africa’s Zolani Tete for the IBF world junior bantamweight title. Butler was stopped by Tete — now WBO world bantamweight champion — in the eighth round and it had taken him nine fights to get back another world title shot, only to miss the weight and the chance to win back the belt.

Rodriguez, 25, from Vega Baja, came with a good reputation and by the end of the first round it was easy to see why.

The unbeaten Puerto Rican put Butler on his backside with a left hook in for a count before a succession of accurate blows deposited on the canvas again moments later.

Butler’s head cleared but he was staggered by a right in the fourth round as Rodriguez remained firmly in the ascendancy.

Butler’s face became increasingly bloody as Rodriguez steadily worked his jab and combinations to good effect through the sixth and seventh rounds.

Butler’s fellow Briton Ryan Burnett, the WBA titleholder, relinquished the IBF belt earlier this year.

Joyce wins Commonwealth heavyweight title

Joe Joyce won his first professional title in his fourth paid bout with a second round win over Lenroy Thomas for the Commonwealth heavyweight title.

Joyce (4-0, 4 KOs), who has sparred numerous rounds with unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, overwhelmed Thomas with three knockdowns.

It looked so easy but facing Florida-based Jamaican Thomas, 33, so soon in his career was a bold move by Londoner Joyce, who won silver in the 2016 Olympics super-heavyweight tournament.

Thomas (22-5-1, 10 KOs), who is based in Saint Petersburg, won the Commonwealth title with a split decision over Dave Allen last May to silence the Englishman’s home crowd in Yorkshire.

It was Thomas’ first defeat since a third round stoppage loss to Andrey Fedosov in ESPN’s 2015 Boxcino Tournament semifinals.

Joyce, 32, only turned professional in September but did not look out of his depth at all. He wobbled Thomas with a big right before then putting him down with a carefully placed left to the body just before the bell to end the first round.

Joyce, from Putney, forced another count after a landing a series of hooks before a left to the body turned Thomas’ legs to jelly and down for the last time.

Joyce’s former Great Britain Olympic boxing team-mate Joshua Buatsi looked stylish in a comfortable win.

“Sam Sexton and Hughie Fury fight for the British heavyweight title next week, so maybe I could fight the winner of that,” said Joyce.

  • Light-heavyweight Buatsi, who was born in Ghana but has lived in London since childhood, extended his professional record to 6-0 with a fifth round win over France’s Stephane Cuevas.

    Buatsi (6-0, 4 KOs) — won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics — will step up to a ten-round fight next and promoter Eddie Hearn wants him to box in America later this year.

  • Luke Campbell returned to winning ways with a fifth round victory over Troy James. Campbell, Olympic gold medalist for Great Britain in 2012, lost a split decision to Jorge Linares in September following the death of his father. Campbell, 30, (18-2, 14 KOs) is now being lined up to face France’s Yvan Mendy (40-4-1, 19 KOs) in an eliminator for the WBC world lightweight title. Mendy won a split decision over Campbell, also at the O2 Arena, three years ago.

  • Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson (22-2, 17 KOs) ended England’s Martin J Ward’s unbeaten record with a fifth round stoppage to lift the European and Commonwealth super-featherweight titles. Ward (19-1-2, 9 KOs), from Essex, who making a first defence and went into the fight as the WBA No 2, put Tennyson, from Belfast, down in the third round but was then hurt in the fourth and fifth rounds.

  • John Ryder (26-4, 14 KOs) stopped English super-middleweight rival Jamie Cox (25-2, 14 KOs) with a right to the temple in the third round. Cox, who was knocked out in four rounds by WBA world champion George Groves in October, complained he beat the count.

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