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BOXING NOTES

Bazan Uses Edge in Size to Beat Johnston

June 14, 1998|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EL PASO — It wasn't pretty, it wasn't exciting and it certainly wasn't overwhelming.

But Cesar Bazan wasn't complaining after winning a split decision over Stevie Johnston in the semi-main event Saturday night at the Sun Bowl to capture the World Boxing Council lightweight championship.

Bazan, his nose blooded about midway through the fight, blocked the best of Johnston's punches and used his seven-inch height advantage to hand Johnston his first defeat after 24 professional wins.

"I feel great," said Bazan, who improved to 32-2-1 with 23 knockouts. "That's what I always wanted. I thank God for it. I got what I deserved after many years of boxing."

There were no knockdowns in the fight and neither fighter ever appeared in any danger.

"He never hurt me," Bazan said. "He gave me several head butts, but they were accidental."

Judges Omar Minton and David Harris both scored the fight for Bazan, 115-113. Judge Oren Shellenberger gave it to Johnston by a four-point margin, 116-112.

Despite the closeness of the decision, there wasn't a protest from Johnston's corner.

"He was so tall I couldn't get to him," the 5-foot-5 Johnston said of the 6-foot Bazan.

So what is now ahead for Bazan?

"I will give him [Johnston] a rematch," he said without reservation.

*

Nothing should come as a surprise in a sport that has been halted by everything from a hang glider to a chewed-off ear, from a positive HIV blood test to a nervous breakdown in the ring.

But even veteran boxing observers couldn't recall ever seeing a fight card nearly gone with the wind.

It occurred early Saturday evening at the Sun Bowl, before most of the crowd had arrived, and just after welterweight Daniel Santos (16-0-1, 12 knockouts) had knocked out Juan Carlos Rodriguez (32-11-2, 20 knockouts) at the two-minute mark of the fifth round of their scheduled 10-rounder.

The winds, which had swirled all day, suddenly whipped up so strongly that the trusses holding the banks of lights above the ring began to sway.

For an instant, it appeared as if the entire structure would come tumbling down, crushing those below.

After being alerted by HBO officials to the potential threat, security personnel immediately evacuated the area, causing a 30-minute delay before the other preliminary bouts could be staged. In the interim, the banks of lights were lowered and more tightly secured.

The danger was averted and boxing had yet another bizarre incident to add to its strange, wild and always unpredictable lore.

*

In the other preliminary fights, featherweight Cesar Soto improved to 51-7-2 with 39 knockouts by knocking out Juan Polo-Perez (39-18-3, 22 knockouts) at 2:14 of the second round, and Marty Jakubowski improved to 101-5 by winning a six-round decision over Verdell Smith (31-25).

Perhaps by the time he reaches his 110th fight, Jakubowski will be ready to move up to eight-rounders.

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