Lee Groves

10: Most notable St. Louis title fights

 

July 8, 2006, Savvis Center – Cory Spinks W 12 Roman Karmazin

Spinks – long criticized for his safety-first style – rolled the dice as never before. First he had not fought since the humbling loss to Judah 17 months earlier, and ring rust is particularly poisonous to boxers like Spinks who rely on speed and timing. Second, Spinks was fighting for the title in a new weight class against a naturally far bigger man in Karmazin. Third, Karmazin – nicknamed “Made In Hell” for his size, strength and resolve – dethroned Kassim Ouma in his last fight 12 months earlier, and Ouma, like Spinks, was a southpaw. Finally, Spinks was returning to the arena that hosted the Judah loss.

Before a smaller, more skeptical yet hopeful crowd, Spinks further tempted fate by staging another lengthy ring walk, this time with aspiring rapper Young Jack. The performance was shortened to four minutes, and that wasn’t the only thing that changed from the Judah rematch.

Spinks won five of the first six rounds with a solid blueprint. He moved just enough to be hard to hit, but also stayed close enough to pounce on Karmazin’s mistakes. Spinks pelted the Russian with spearing jabs, solid counters and left crosses heavy enough to drive the defending champion into the corner pad on a couple of occasions. The only round he lost during this stage was the second, when a strong one-two to the face wobbled and nearly floored the hometown hero.

The fight began to turn Karmazin’s way in the seventh as Spinks’ technique began to lag and his physicality started to emerge. Karmazin’s pressure really took hold in the ninth as Spinks’ movement slowed and in late in the 10thtwo hefty rights forced Spinks to hold on for dear life.

Sensing their man was losing his way, the Savvis Center crowd chanted Spinks’ name in the 11thbut that did nothing to staunch Karmazin’s momentum. With the fight – and the title – in the balance both men picked up their pace in the final round. Spinks did a better job slipping under Karmazin’s swings while the Russian continued to pressure hard. The judges were divided; Jerry Griffin saw it 114-114 while Melvina Lathan and Manfred Kuechler saw Spinks a 115-113 winner.

The upset not only gave the former undisputed welterweight champion a second divisional belt, it also allowed him to put his immediate past behind him.

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