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Monday, March 28, 2011

Cuello halts Thai, seals WBC title crack


Shrugging off the pain from a bruised right hand, Denver Cuello moved a step closer to a crack at the WBC minimumweight title by halting tough Samat 3-K Battery Chaiyong of Thailand at 1:12 of the ninth round before a wildly cheering crowd at the packed Ynares Gym in Angono, Rizal, last Saturday night.

Cuello, 24, had difficulty finding his range in the first few rounds as Samat, refusing to engage, moved around the ring like a mouse pursued by a cat. In the third round, Cuello hurt his right hand after slamming it on Samat’s skull and relied on his killer left the rest of the way to finally dispose of the Thai.

There was no stopping Cuello who dominated the action from the start and kept Samat on the backfoot with bone-crushing body blows. In the seventh, Samat was staggered by a left uppercut and reeled across the ring but was saved by the bell, raising both arms to celebrate his survival. Cuello turned on the heat in the eighth as he softened up Samat for the kill.

Samat showed little artillery to counter Cuello’s assault. The former muay thai kickboxer let out a loud grunt with every punch he threw but it was all bark, no bite. Occasionally, he landed a sweeping right cross in the trenches. Cuello walked through it like he had an amulet that made him bullet-proof.

A left uppercut to the chin jolted Samat who scurried back to his corner at the height of Cuello’s attack in the ninth. Cuello didn’t let up. He unleashed a barrage of punches to the face and body, leaving Samat virtually defenseless. Trapped in his corner, Samat would’ve gone down if not for the ropes. Referee Bruce McTavish stepped in to halt the carnage as Samat was clearly in no condition to continue.

The win assured Cuello of a shot at the WBC 105-pound crown now held by Japan’s Kazuto Ioka. WBC executive secretary Mauricio Sulaiman has guaranteed Cuello’s manager Aljoe Jaro that the southpaw from Cabatuan, Iloilo, will be given a crack after Ioka’s title defense against Mexico’s Juan Hernandez in a fight still to be finalized.

If Ioka retains the title, he will move up to the lightflyweight division and Denver will face No. 2 contender Ganigan Lopez for the vacant throne. If Hernandez wins, he will be ordered by the WBC to make his first defense against Cuello in a grudge rematch. Last May, Hernandez was on the way to dreamland when Cuello was disqualified for landing a blow with the Mexican out on his feet in a bizarre ending to their title eliminator in Mexico City. Hernandez’ face was a bloody mess and there was no way he could get up from a left uppercut to the liver. But Cuello failed to rein in, his momentum leading to a punch while Hernandez was on the canvas. It was a glancing blow but a perfect excuse for Mexican authorities to save Hernandez from defeat.

Against Samat, Cuello made sure of the outcome. It was his fifth straight win after the loss to Hernandez and improved his record to 26-4-6, with 17 KOs. Cuello retained his WBC International minimumweight title in the process.

I didn’t want to disappoint the fans,” said Cuello. “I hurt my right hand in the third round but that’s not an excuse. It took longer than usual to finish off Samat because he was tough. That guy had 200 muay thai fights so he’s used to getting kicked and punched. I didn’t treat this fight like a tune-up. It was a real challenge. I wanted to knock him out. I didn’t want the fans to think I couldn’t take him out. I didn’t want it to go the distance. It didn’t matter if my right hand hurt.

Cuello said his plan was to punish the body in the first six rounds then move in for a knockout starting the seventh. But Samat managed to hold on until the ninth.

Samat’s eyes were glazed and his legs were gone,” said McTavish, recalling the signs that prompted the stoppage. “A few more punches and Samat would’ve been knocked out cold. And if I had let it go further, he might have suffered serious damage. The biggest compliment I got was Samat and his team didn’t protest my call. They knew, too, it was the end.

Jaro said he expected Samat to give it his all. Samat, 26, had everything to gain and nothing to lose. He is ranked No. 31 by the WBC while Cuello is No. 3.

I saw Samat’s fight against former world champion Muhammad Rachman on tape,” said Jaro. “Samat won on points and fought impressively. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy fight for Denver. Samat came to win. He didn’t fly in just to pick up his paycheck. It was a good test for Denver.

Cuello, who is sponsored by Thai businessman Naris Singwancha, was paid P250,000 for the bout and Samat, $3,000. Angono Mayor Gerry Calderon awarded Cuello a medal and a championship trophy after the fight.

In the undercard, Lionel Legada claimed the vacant Philippine Boxing Federation minimumweight title by scoring a majority 10-round decision over Jetly Purisima, Boy Dondee Pumar and Rex Olisa battled to a split 10-round draw in a bantamweight bout and unbeaten Ernie Sanchez halted Jog Alim at 1:18 of the eighth round.


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