Photos by Sumio Yamada
DARNELL WILSON KO11 EMMANUEL NWODO
In as dramatic a comeback as you are ever likely to see, Darnell Ding-a-Ling Man Wilson, the fight seemingly slipping beyond his reach, turned things around by flooring Emmanuel Nwodo in the 10th, then blasted him out of the fight with a colossal left hook in the 11th round to capture the USBA cruiserweight championship and surely put himself in the running for a shot at one of the world titles.
Teddy Atlas, in his concluding comments on Friday Night Fights, observed that in his 10 years of broadcasting for ESPN none of the knockouts he had seen came to his memory as shocking, as sudden and as devastating as that one.
The KO was all of those things. Nwodo, legs betraying him but still, almost on instinct, throwing punches, got caught with his back to the ropes by a blockbuster of a left hook that sent him down like an imploded chimney stack, left leg folded beneath his body. Down and absolutely out. Referee David Fields immediately signalled for the ringside doctors to come to the fighters assistance, and it was a relief that Nwodo quickly came around and was able to walk back to the dressing room.
Fights such as this are why, in my opinion, boxing outclasses mixed martial arts as a spectacle. There were shifts of fortune in a long a bit longer than I thought it would be and gruelling struggle.
Each man was cut, each showed heart. Nwodo seemed to be in charge for two rounds only to get caught and dropped in the third. Yet, with the fight in his grasp, Wilson seemed to drift away like a rudderless ship and Nwodo rallied to start winning rounds. Yet, with victory in sight, the Nigerian made the fundamental error of starting a right uppercut while directly in his opponents firing line, Wilson beat him to the punch with a beautiful straight right hand followed immediately by a jarring left hook, Nwodo collapsed to the canvas and in an instant everything had changed.
Nwodo leading by 95-93 on all three judges' cards came away with great credit, even though he suffered the knockout loss. He showed he can box as well as throw big punches. Nwodos jab, sometimes, doubled up, was a problem for the shorter Wilson. The Nigerian kept his hands up to block a lot of Wilsons heavy blows and after surviving the shock of being dropped in the third from a left hook that did not seem to land cleanly but still sent him to his knees Nwodo simply seemed more consistent, more in control of things, than his Maryland-state rival.
Always, though, Wilson had the chance to effect a sudden reversal of fortunes if only he could hit the target with one of his haymakers.
It did not look as if he could do it. He missed hugely and in do doing swung himself off balance so that he stumbled across the ring.
Nwodo seemed to be in control of the pace and distance of the fight in the eighth and ninth rounds. Wilson showed a great chin, standing up to some big right hands and left hooks and tapping his heart to show he wasnt going to give in, but he looked frustrated at not being able to land a telling blow of his own Nwodo was either well-covered or able to move out of his way. I got the impression that Wilson was getting reluctant to launch his bombs because he did not want to miss and go floundering around. He was getting hit and he was unable to hit his opponent a most discouraging state of affairs.
After the ninth round Nwodo appeared to be full of confidence. In Wilsons corner a couple of doctors were having a look at him while his trainer, Charles Mooney, was telling him in no uncertain terms that he had to throw punches: If you dont fight, Im going to have to stop the fight.
Then, in the 10th, as HBOs Jim Lampley put it after George Foreman hit Michael Moorer on the chin, it happened. Nwodo, seeking to do damage rather than playing it safe, started the uppercut and got drilled by his opponents right hand, just the way it happened when Buster Douglas went out against Evander Holyfield except that Wilson added the hook for good measure. But whereas Douglas stayed down, Nwodo dragged himself up and did everything he could to stay in the fight, trying to move, holding on, attempting to fight back, until that final, concussive left hook just blew him away.
Wilson had said in the pre-fight interview that he knew Nwodo would not be able to take his punches and that once he had his man hurt he was going to go into sixth gear and put him out. He did exactly that, late in the fight though it was.