Lee Groves

10: Notable Valentine’s Day fights

4. 1988 – James “Buddy” McGirt KO 12 Frankie Warren II, Memorial Coliseum, Corpus Christi, Texas

Nearly 19 months earlier McGirt and Warren met in a battle of undefeated 140-pound prospects. The swarming Warren, the older brother of future 130-pound title challenger Harold Warren, overwhelmed the New York boxer-puncher en route to a 10-round points win.

Since then Warren won four more fights to run his record to 25-0 (17) while McGirt (36-1-1, 31) ran off eight in a row to secure this rematch, this time for IBF junior welterweight title vacated by Terry Marsh, who was forced to retire undefeated after being diagnosed with epilepsy. The unbeaten Warren was the number-one challenger while McGirt occupied the second slot.

Unlike the first bout that saw Warren dictate an inside war, the rematch began with McGirt lancing Warren from long range and neatly nipping away from the Texan’s charges. His jabs, hooks, uppercuts and body shots connected with impressive sharpness and in the closing moments of the opening round a big right nearly put Warren on the floor.

Rounds two and three were near carbon copies of round one as Warren’s wild swings mostly found air while McGirt’s mostly found face. The slow-starting Warren finally began to warm up in the final minute of the third and his rally over the last 25 seconds had the crowd of nearly 5,000 in full-throated rapture.

The fourth was a better round for Warren as his bob-and-weave had more verve and his pressure had McGirt giving more ground. But his progress came with a price as his right eye showed the first signs of swelling. Though Warren forced McGirt to engage punch-for-punch, the Long Islander was more than up to the challenge.

McGirt regained his long-distance rhythm in round five, which lasted only two minutes due to a timekeeping error. Warren enjoyed a good sixth but McGirt’s steady shower of leather opened a cut under the right eye and caused a more severe swelling to erupt over the left.

With his injuries mounting, Warren’s pressure in the eighth had an air of desperation while McGirt’s clinical dissection was pure science. With 25 seconds remaining, two heavy hooks sent Warren stumbling backward and onto the floor for the first time in his career. After Warren arose referee Barry Yeats called time out to have Warren’s swelling examined, a move that infuriated McGirt’s corner.

No matter; McGirt resumed command in the 10th as his punches landed with sickening regularity. Warren’s left eye was completely shut while his right orb was a mere slit. Before the start of the 12th the ringside physician took a final look at his injuries before allowing the fight to proceed.

It continued for only 94 more seconds, for after McGirt landed two chopping rights to the face Yeats called a halt. Neither Duva, George Benton nor Warren objected, but the crowd did by equating Yeats’ move to bovine excrement – hardly a worthy coda to a Valentine’s Day fight.

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