In the welterweight heyday of the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray's 'Modus Operandi' was always the same, fight as if an ordinary round with your opponent for the first two minutes and fifteen seconds, then come on strong in the last 45 seconds of the round, impress the judges and steal the round on the cards.
Super Middleweight Farah Ennis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, used Sugar Ray's plan in reverse to achieve success for ten rounds and won a unanimous decision over Las Vegas fighter Dion Savage. The seven bout card at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was broadcast on gofightlive.com, with commentary by Marc Abrams. Ring announcer Henry Hascup, President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and a noted boxing historian, added class to the St. Patrick's Day event.
Ennis, known as 'The Quiet Storm', executed a successful fight plan to box only the first 45 seconds of every round (for the most part), then settle quietly in a defensive posture on the ropes, a confusing approach which left all three scorecards emerging with different tallies. Busier opponent Dion Savage loudly cried foul over the decision both in and out of the ring. Savage did not take the bout to center ring once Ennis ' fight plan emerged, perhaps a corner error in not changing the counter strategy.
Ennis, now 19-1 (12), seem to have an edge on experience over Savage, now 11-3 (6), but from the opening bell the bout appeared to be on even terms, with both fighters well-trained and in the ring to win. The question then remained: what would be the fight plan of each fighter, and with what style would they fight the bout? Styles make fights. For a capacity crowd who came to watch Pound For Pound Promotions seven bout card on a pleasant weather St. Patrick's Day night in Atlantic City fully of happy and green celebration, the main event was most noteworthy for the lack of center ring action-and was somewhat disappointing.
Ennis, who lost a decision to unbeaten Alexander Johnson at Bally's last April, entered the ring with a knockout victory over 5-4 Grover Young in January. Ennis declined to make a fight of this bout, fighting only for roughly the first 45 seconds of each round and then settling on the ropes where Savage hit the Ennis stationary target savagely to score points. Ennis countered somewhat, and his game plan never varied.
Ennis scored a flash knockdown of an off balance Savage in the third which may have been more awkward footing than anything else, leaving Savage considerably annoyed. The third round appeared to be more a 10-9 than a 10-8 round due to the beating an angered Savage gave Ennis on the ropes for the remainder of the round. Ennis did appear to just land more punches in the first three rounds to win them.
Savage shortened his punches, and won rounds by volume with short accurate punches which landed with Ennis on the ropes in the rounds that followed. Savage appeared to win the fourth and fifth rounds. The sixth and the seven rounds were closer, but Ennis strategy of taking a defensive rope-a-dope posture on the ropes was a losing strategy because Savage was outworking him by punch volume. In the eighth, Ennis tried moving the bout to center ring, but got outworked in power punch exchanges by Savage. In deep waters in the ninth and tenth, both fighters exchanged power punches, won by Savage, as Ennis' early power punching bombs gave way to Savage's bombs with Ennis on the ropes for most of the round again.
If the decision was close to even, Ennis would have benefited from the knockdown. Even so, Ennis did not box for the majority of each round, leaving many at ringside wondering what else Savage would have had to do to win this decision. Simply put, Ennis spent most of this bout on the ropes taking shots.
Ennis had one more bright spot when he threw his best bombs at the start of the tenth, leaving Savage doubled over all of a sudden, and looking like he was going to close the show. Strangely-but consistently-Ennis settled back to his comfortable defensive posture on the ropes and inexplicably let Savage back into the fight to finish the bout.
Referee Allan Huggins did an admirable job controlled the tempo of this bout. There was no holding, with two warnings for low blows for borderline shots. All three of the judges saw the bout differently on the cards, which perhaps attested to the difficulty in scoring such a strange style bout fought mostly off the ropes.
Saddo Boxing scored this strange strategy bout 96-95 for Farah Ennis. Some press had the bout a draw. Ennis appeared to maybe just win the bout, which raised more questions about Ennis' future than it did answers. For his career to get jumpstarted again, he will have to fight better than he did against Dion Savage. Referee Allan Huggins had to console Huggins in the ring after the decision was announced, and Huggins was openly bitter in expressing the sentiment he felt he had been robbed.
In an exclusive interview after the bout, Savage, a Michigan fighter now fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada, explained his view of the bout. "I won the bout. I had him backing up the whole night, (I was) walking him down. I was hitting him better with triple hooks and body shots, (while) he was just sitting on the ropes. I showed far more effort and skill than he did. I outboxed him (Ennis). I made adjustments (during the bout), I gave my all. He fought 45 seconds a round, then I was hitting the brother. I came on like a vacuum. He (Ennis) backed up the whole night. How did I lose?" noted Savage. Some at ringside asked the same question.
Savage's trainer, Tyrone Boose of Las Vegas, had some harsh words of criticism as well. "There's no way Ennis could have won the fight. There's no way Ennis could win a unanimous decision. They (the judges) could have been more fair. Like a draw. I thought Dion won the fight. Dion outclassed Ennis in every dimension. Give us another chance (and fight a fight like this) and we'll knock Ennis out in two. Scoring in Las Vegas (where we are fighting out of) is always fair, but not (bad) like this." In stating such, Boose inferred his corner was unlikely to return to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a return match with Farah Ennis even if offered the chance.
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