LAS VEGAS -- Badou Jack, the former super middleweight world titleholder moving up in weight, wiped out Nathan Cleverly in a one-sided fifth-round knockout to win a secondary light heavyweight world title on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Fighting on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard, Jack made a statement against an experienced veteran two-time titleholder with a tremendous performance.
"I wanted to box him and feel him out while establishing my jab. Then the plan was to break him down from there. The plan was to finish him," Jack said. "I got a little excited at times but I barely got hit. My boxing IQ was the difference in this fight. Everybody doubting me motivated me. My trainer and my team did a great job getting me to this point. It's a dream come true."
Jack got off to a good start as he found Cleverly early and often with clean punches in the opening round and never really let up.
Jack (21-1-3, 13 KOs) had a huge fourth round as he lashed Cleverly with numerous clean left hands and also connected with a solid right hand. Cleverly had nothing to offer in the return and by time the round ended Cleverly looked spent and his face was a bloody mess.
In the fifth round he trapped Cleverly near the ropes and fired punches with both hands, causing Cleverly (30-4, 16 KOs), 30, of Wales, to cover up and throw only desperation shots.
Jack, 33, a Sweden native fighting out of Las Vegas, where he trains with Mayweather, continued to pound Cleverly in the fifth, landing a hard right hand and an uppercut before referee Tony Weeks had seen enough and stepped in at 2 minutes, 47 seconds.
"You can't leave it in the hands of the judges. You've got to go for the kill," Jack said. "I think [world champion] Adonis Stevenson [is next]. Let's get it on. Unless you [Stevenson] want a trilogy with Andrzej Fonfara, let's get it on. Let's fight somebody real. I'd go anywhere."
Jack was fighting for the first time since a majority draw in a January super middleweight world title unification fight with James DeGale. Shortly after the action-packed fight Jack vacated his 168-pound belt and announced he would move up to the 175-pound division.
Cleverly was making the first defense of the belt he won last October when he stopped Juergen Braehmer in the sixth round on Braehmer's turf in Germany.
"Jack was very strong. He caught me and broke my nose in the third round," Cleverly said. "It was a downward spiral from there. I was wounded and protecting myself. It's horrible but part of the sport. I thought the stoppage was premature. He had just swung and missed but it's up to the referee in the end. I have to respect that decision.
Davis stops Fonseca in eighth
Baltimore's Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) was supposed to defend his junior lightweight world title for the second time in his fight with Costa Rica's Francisco Fonseca (19-1-1, 13 KOs) but he was stripped of the belt weight in at 132 pounds, two over the division limit.
But the fight went ahead anyway with Fonseca, who was on weight, eligible to win it. But he did not come close as Davis, though he did not look good, knocked out Fonseca in the eighth round with an apparent illegal punch.
Davis, who at 22 had been the youngest active American world titleholder and the third youngest in boxing before being stripped, went after Fonseca, 23, who was boxing in the United States for the first time, with one power punch after another. Davis, a southpaw, clipped him with many uppercuts and straight left hands and had Fonseca on the defensive throughout the bout.
In the fourth round, Davis landed a clean uppercut and then taunted Fonseca by putting his hands behind his back, bobbing and weaving, like Roy Jones Jr. once did against an overmatched opponent.
But Fonseca was tough and hung in there, including when he rocked Davis with a right hand in the eighth round. Later in the round, Davis landed a left hand behind Fonseca's head and pushed him down, but referee Russell Mora did not call a foul. Instead, he ruled it a knockdown and counted Fonseca out at 39 seconds as the crowd booed the call.
"I guess the camera didn't show the right clip of me catching him. I actually caught him with a body blow before that punch," said Davis, who said he plans to remain at junior lightweight and try to regain his title. "It hurt him, and he knew he was hurt so he took advantage of me swinging and fell down. I don't think it was illegal, but it had no effect on him. I know for sure it didn't."
"He never hurt me in the exchange," Fonseca said through a translator. "Even though he came in at 160 pounds [after rehydrating] he doesn't hit as hard as they say."
Cruiserweight up-and-comer Andrew Tabiti (15-0, 12 KOs) soundly outboxed former two-time world titleholder Steve Cunningham (29-9-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round snoozer.
Tabiti, 27, of Las Vegas, was awarded scores of 100-90, 97-93 and 97-93 as he put the name of a respected veteran on his record. Cunningham, 41, of Philadelphia, was easily Tabiti's most notable opponent and though Cunningham had far more experience it was of little use.
"I was just jabbing him and making sure I stayed smart," Tabiti said. "He's a veteran, so I had to stay composed. I wanted to show that I could box. This was a step up for me and I felt comfortable in there. He had a decent jab but he wasn't busy enough. I just didn't want to make mistakes. If you start too fast against a veteran you're liable to get caught by him."
Cunningham, who has been in many tough fights, could not deal with his movement and landed far fewer punches. Cunningham dropped to 1-3-1 in his last five fights.
"I don't think Andrew Tabiti is a championship level fighter. I thought I won the fight," Cunningham said. "I didn't think I saw anything special from him. He was quick and sharp, so I didn't want to just lunge in and make a mistake. I took my time but when I saw that he wasn't trying to fight, I had to push it a little more."
Welterweight Yordenis Ugas (20-3, 9 KOs), no stranger to short notice fights, took this one on a week's notice and won a unanimous decision against Thomas Dulorme (24-3, 18 KOs) in an action fight in which both hit the mat. Ugas won by scores of 94-91, 93-92 and 93-92.
Dulorme was scheduled to face former welterweight world titleholder Shawn Porter, but he withdrew on less than two weeks' notice following a death in his family.
Ugas dropped Dulorme twice in the final seconds of the second round, first with a big right uppercut. Moments later he was down again but did not appear badly hurt either time.
"I knew that Dulorme had a great camp preparing for Shawn Porter, so when I knocked him down I figured he would get up," Ugas said. "I only had nine days to prepare for this fight so I had to be smart and not waste anything. I hit him with some really good shots but he got up. He's a warrior. When you take big fights on short notice it's a little tougher but I'm happy I got the victory."
Dulorme, 27, a former junior welterweight world title challenger from Puerto Rico, fought his way back into the fight and they were trading fierce shots in the sixth round, when Dulorme angered Ugas, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Cuba, with a low blow that referee Vic Drakulich viewed as borderline.
"It was a good fight. It was a very tough fight." Dulorme said. "I came to fight and I took him seriously. I kept working. It was up and down, but I kept working. I thought he was tired late in the fight so I tried to increase the pressure, but it was hard because the referee didn't let me work on the inside like I wanted to."
In the seventh round, Dulorme connected with a left hook and a clean right hand that dropped the Miami-based Ugas, 31, to his backside but the round ended before he could get off another punch.
"When I got knocked down I knew I had to get up and show heart and guts," Ugas said. "That was the only way to do it. I got a little tired at the end and should have closed the show. But that happens with short notice fights. I just have to keep getting better."
In the bout that opened the Fox telecast of preliminaries, junior welterweight Juan Heraldez (13-0, 8 KOs) won a unanimous decision against fellow prospect Jose Miguel Borrego (13-1, 12 KOs). Heraldez, 27, of Las Vegas, survived a ninth-round knockdown and won by sores of 97-92, 97-92, 96-93. Borrego, 19, of Mexico, sent him to the canvas with a right hand during a flurry of shots but it was too little, too late.
Marcos Antonio Hernandez (10-1, 2 KOs), 24, of Fresno, California, pulled an upset against Mayweather Promotions super middleweight prospect Kevin Newman (7-1-1, 3 KOs), 25, of Las Vegas. Hernandez, who was coming off a loss, won handily by scores of 59-54, 59-54 and 57-56.
Super middleweight Savannah Marshall (1-0), 26, a 2016 British Olympian and the only woman to defeat two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields in her 77-1 amateur career, made her professional debut by rolling to shutout decision against Sydney LeBlanc (4-3-1, 0 KOs), 33, of Lafayette, Louisiana. All three judges scored the fight 40-36.
The women opted to fight three-minute rounds rather than the usual two minutes woman typically fight in Nevada.
"I felt brilliant. I'm really glad it was three-minute rounds because I prefer that over two-minute rounds," Marshall said. "She was really tough like I knew she would be. I'm glad that I got out of there with a win against a top class opponent. I've been looking forward to this all week so I'm really excited about my performance. The build-up this week has been great."