Mullings at his brilliant best
A blistering body attack that knocked the wind out of his opponent, Canadian Phil Rose, enabled Jamaica's Sakima Mullings to win the Wray & Nephew 2017 Junior Middleweight Contender title at the Mico University College campus on Wednesday night, by sixth-round technical knockout.
The bout was scheduled for 10 rounds, and the stoppage came after one minute and eight seconds of the round had elapsed. Mullings thereby achieved the feat of winning a Contender title for the second time, having done so in 2014 as a welterweight.
The cheers from the large crowd were loud and prolonged during the fight, and many boxing aficionados said that on the night, Mullings reminded them of Michael 'The Body Snatcher' McCallum, one of Jamaica's most famous boxing champions, who ruled the roost for many years as a world champion in the junior middleweight, middleweight, and light-heavyweight divisions, and who was noted for his body attacks.
Mullings and Rose successfully navigated their way to the finals of the Contender competition, which started on April 5, and an action-packed encounter was expected.
Both men delivered. Mullings had stated before the fight that he would be "using brain rather brawn" to defeat his opponent, who was physically more imposing. It turned out, however, that he used a mixture of ring smarts and power punching to reach his destination.
He was aggressive from the opening bell. Coming in behind the jab, he manoeuvred Rose to the ropes and fed him a constant barrage of hooks to the body and head with both hands. Rose fought back gallantly, but Mullings, who told the Gleaner before the fight that "we have done our research on Rose and have a game plan for him", gave no quarter.
His attacks were relentless, and although Rose fought back, Mullings was always able to stay one step ahead of him in the exchanges. The fourth round was the best for Rose, and he did make Mullings defend for a while in that round. Mullings quickly took over again in the fifth, and then accelerated and exploded in the sixth round. He attacked relentlessly, and a mixture of head and body shots put Rose down, but he was up quickly and took refuge and the mandatory eight count in Mullings' corner.
Asked by New Jersey referee Steve Smoger if he wanted to continue, he said yes and was sent back to the centre of the ring. Within seconds, he was backed into a neutral corner and hammered by Mullings, at which stage Smoger stepped in and called a halt.
Mullings led on all the scorecards when the fight was called off. Judge Steve Weisfeld from New York and Keith Brown from Jamaica had it 49-46 and judge Dave Dunbar from Canada 49-45 for Mullings.
Mullings told The Gleaner afterwards: "I made a promise to Jamaica to bring the Contender title home since it was won by an American last year, and I have done so. I also promised to be the first two-time Contender champion, and I delivered. I am a very happy man tonight."
Along with the title, he took home the first prize of $2 million. The second prize of $500,000 went to Rose; third prize of $250,000 to Tsetsi Davis, who lost to Mullings in the semis; and $200,000 to Richard Holmes, who was fourth.