By Jeff Zimmerman at ringside
Photos: Sumio Yamada
In a clash of unbeaten 140-pounders, Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) won a controversial twelve round unanimous decision over Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6 KOs) to claim the vacant WBA super lightweight title on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The scores were 114-112, 115-111, 116-111 and the latter two seemed ridiculously wide. Even though Barrios scored knockdowns when Akhmedov’s glove touched the canvas in the fourth and the twelfth rounds, many at ringside expected Akhmedov’s hand to be raised at the end.
The first two rounds were a feeling out process for both fighters, but in the third round the action picked up as both exchanged big shots in the center of the ring. In the fourth round, Barrios landed a double straight left hand that sent Akhmedov backward and off-balance. Akhmedov used the canvas to hold himself up and it was correctly ruled a knockdown by the ref.
The knockdown seemed to be a wake-up call for Akhmedov. By the end of the fourth and over the next couple rounds, both Barrios and Akhmedov let their hands go as Akhmedov pressed the action and Barrios countered.
By the seventh round and into the eighth and ninth, the pressure of Akhmedov started to take its toll on Barrios as Akhmedov stalked Barrios around the ring and landed multiple combos. Barrios continued to counter but without the zip to keep Akhmedov off him. Akhmedov landed big left hooks to the body as the round ended. In the tenth, it was much of the same, as Akhmedov was all over Barrios landing to the head and body that included the biggest punch of the fight at the time, a left-hand seconds before the round ended.
With 20 seconds left in the fight, Barrios landed a hard right hand and again Akhmedov’s glove touched the canvas for a second knockdown.
The result was still in doubt as the scores were being read. The crowd booed the decision when it was announced that Barrios had won the world title.