Bloody finish to bantamweight title fight |

Bloody finish to bantamweight title fight

Tim Parsons

Rafael Marquez showed why he is the best bantamweight in the world, but his opponent has a justifiable reason to think he was robbed.

Ring doctor Stephen Brown stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 8 seconds of the fourth round because of two cuts on the face of Silence Mabuza. The No. 1 contender had a cut on his left cheek and severe cut just above his right eye. Both cuts happened in the fourth round.

The cuts were caused by punches, then the more severe cut was made worse by a headbutt, according to Marc Ratner, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. If the cut was started by a headbutt, the fight would have been ruled a no decision.

“The cut above my right eye was caused by a headbutt,” said Mabuza, who lost for the first time in his career. “I am disappointed that the fight was stopped.”

Marquez disagreed: “There were some headbutts early in the fight but they didn’t cause any cuts. It was punches that caused the cuts.”

The debate was unfortunate for the champion who was on his way to a decisive victory.

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Marquez’s sixth defense of his IBF title nearly ended in the first round. A straight right, followed by another right put Mabuza on the canvas.

Although he was quickly back on his feet, Mabuza’s knees buckled after taking a combination of head shots. He fell against the ropes and referee Norm Budden, working his 12th world title fight, stepped in, apparently to give a standing eight count. But the bell rang and the referee sent both fighters to their corners.

The second and third rounds were entertaining as both fighters stayed mostly on the outside, landing combinations. All three judges gave the rounds to Marquez, but as the bell ended the third, Mabuza smiled and jogged back to his corner.

“(Mabuza’s) a very strong boxer-puncher,” Marquez said through trainer and translator Jaime Quintana. “He’s fast, accurate and he hits hard. He should obviously be the No. 1 contender.”

Budden stopped the action early in the fourth round so the doctor could examine the cuts. The action resumed for a minute, then the cuts became much worse and the fight was stopped.

While many of the fighters complained about the altitude at Lake Tahoe, it was not a factor for Marquez. He and his brother, former IBF featherweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, have a training camp outside of Mexico City at 15,000 feet.

Marquez improved his record to 35-3 with 31 knockouts. He made $112,500. He said his next goal was to unify the title by winning the WBA crown from Wladimir Sidorenko.

Mabuza, who lives in Johnnesburg, South Africa, now has an 18-1 record with 15 KOs. His purse was $37,500. This was his third fight in the United States. At a post-fight press conference, his right eye was badly swollen and gashed. He wore a cap that said “Jesus is my Homeboy,” and said he wanted a rematch.

“I am the champ and I am prepared to fight anyone, any time,” Marquez answered. “I would give him a rematch.”

The card was telecast by Showtime. The last time Showtime was at Caesars Tahoe was 13 years ago when Azumah Nelson when he defended his title against Calvin Grove.

– Simon Ruvalcaba contributed to this story.