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Friday, February 23, 2024

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Milwaukee native Anthony “Showtime” Pettis impresses in boxing debut

Earlier this month, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis narrowly overtook Roy Jones Jr. in a close decision victory.

In a night highlighted by the Final Four and WrestleMania, Milwaukee native Anthony “Showtime” Pettis pulled off a close decision victory (76-76, 77-75, 78-74) in his boxing debut against Roy Jones Jr., who has won championships in four different divisions.

The former UFC and WEC lightweight champion employed his youth advantage in the eight round main event of Gamebred Boxing 4 at the Fiserv Forum April 1. Pettis utilized strikes to the body of Jones and superior speed, forcing the veteran — 18 years his senior — to circle around him, while carefully blocking quick shots to the head with a tight guard.

The event missed the presence of the promotion’s namesake, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal, as he prepared for the final fight of his career — a decision loss against Gilbert “Durinho” Burns Saturday at UFC 287 in Miami. The night still delivered with plenty of name value, sporting three UFC champions on top of the highly accomplished Jones.

Pettis weighed in at 198.5 pounds — 43.5 pounds above the 155 pounds he fought at for the majority of his MMA career — most recently hitting the mark in August 2022. Yet, he still managed to eat every shot Jones, the former heavyweight champion, threw at him, including a clean right hook to the dome late in the second round.

Throughout the fight, Pettis repeatedly targeted Jones’ midsection in an attempt to drain the older fighter’s gas tank. This proved evident as early as the second round, as shouts of “Double jab, go to the body” were heard repeatedly from Pettis’ corner.

As the fight progressed, Jones — fighting in his 76th pro bout — showed his experience, using angle changes to land strong blows, and lowering his guard and opening up, leading to another big hook at the end of the fourth round.

The lowered guard opened holes for Pettis, who landed big shots down the stretch — including an overhand right in the seventh round that seemed to catch Jones by surprise. Ultimately, neither fighter was able to put the other away, and Pettis would win on the scorecards by majority decision.

Pettis commended his opponent in the post-fight interview, calling him a “legend of the sport.”

Jones praised the newbie.

“I think he fought a smart fight,” he said.

Although Pettis would not commit to boxing again — claiming he would take it “one fight at a time” — he did say he would “love to do it again” when Jones proposed a rematch.

Post fight, Pettis teased an MMA return, expressing interest in climbing up to the 170 pound division.

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“I’m not done with MMA yet,” he said.

Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort defeats “Jacare” Souza

In the penultimate bout of the evening, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort knocked Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza down two times in the third round on his way to a unanimous decision victory (58-54, 58-54, 57-55).

The former UFC light heavyweight champion Belfort started the six-round fight off strong, rocking the former Strikeforce middleweight champion Souza with a left hand that left him stumbling to his corner.

The most significant part of the fight came in the aforementioned third round, where a left hand to the temple of “Jacare” sent him to the canvas. A second left hand moments later would leave him stunned, and a third would send him down to the mat again, handing “The Phenom” a 10-7 round and a comfortable lead on the cards.

The tides turned in the second half of the fight with Souza taking advantage of a tired Belfort as blood spilled from both fighters' faces. It was all for naught. Another flurry of big shots stumbled Souza yet again in the final round, and Belfort celebrated the unanimous decision victory on his 46th birthday.

José Aldo defeats Jeremy Stephens

The featured bout would end in a majority draw between UFC Hall of Famer José Aldo and MMA veteran Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens (58-56 Aldo, 57-57, 57-57).

The “King of Rio” defeated Stephens by technical knockout in the first round of an MMA bout in July 2019, but under the Queensberry rules, the two would go the distance.

Inside the ring, Aldo looked as quick as ever, displaying exceptional head movement while managing to tag the stiffer but stronger Stephens.

Following a rain of boos after the reading of the decision, both fighters shared a long hug with Stephens, calling for a rematch in his home state of Iowa.

“Jeremy is tough, really tough,” Aldo said.

The Hall of Famer also said he thought he won the match and agreed to the idea of a rematch, but with a Floyd Mayweather fight in the works, a trilogy could be delayed.

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