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Williams Knocked Down to Size

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tall beat small in the desert steam Saturday night as Henry Akinwande avoided the charging Jeremy Williams for two rounds, then slammed him to the canvas in the third.

Groggy, bloody and with a broken left middle finger the only reward for his aggressive efforts, Williams attempted to crawl to his feet as the count reached five and Akinwande towered above him.

Referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight 43 seconds into the third round, giving Akinwande the victory in a fight for the vacant World Boxing Organization heavyweight title--given up by Riddick Bowe recently--before 3,518 at the Fantasy Springs Casino.

“I’m 23 years old, I’ll be back,” said Williams (26-2), who was cut over his left eye and bleeding from his nose. “He caught me with a great shot. He was a lot stronger than I thought.”

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The 6-foot-1 Williams, from Long Beach, spotted Akinwande six inches in height, many more in reach and 15 1/2 pounds, and attempted to nullify the advantage by charging at Akinwande from the opening bell, throwing looping rights at Akinwande’s head.

Williams, who has come up from the light-heavyweight division, also suffered his first loss to a tall fighter, Larry Donald, more than two years ago, but switched trainers after that loss and won 11 consecutive fights.

But, none against anybody as tall and talented as Akinwande, 30.

In the early-going, Akinwande (30-0-1, 18 knockouts) successfully blocked the shots or backpedaled away from Williams, who struggled to land cleanly, then rocked Williams against the ropes late in the second round with a long right hand.

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Williams almost went down in the round as Akinwande cut loose, but hung on long enough to last until the bell, then told his corner he thought he broke his finger.

Williams, a late replacement for Alexander Zolkin in this fight, kept coming forward early in the third, but was finally stopped cold by a lashing jab followed by a right-hand blast on top of his jaw.

“I have been working with my new trainer on planting my feet more,” said Akinwande, who has never been known as a knockout specialist. “When they said Zolkin pulled out, they said to fight Williams just the same way.”

In earlier bouts, World Boxing Council strawweight Ricardo Lopez retained his title and stayed undefeated by dropping No. 1 contender Kitichai Preecha with a left jab, right cross, left uppercut combination in the third round.

After Preecha tumbled to the canvas, he tried to rise, but fell back on his hands and knees. Referee James Jen-Kin stopped the bout at 1:46 of the third, giving the 105-pound Lopez, from Mexico, a 42-0 record, with 32 KOs. Preecha, from Thailand, fell to 19-2.

In a heavyweight bout, Tony Tucker (53-5, 44 KOs), who once held part of the title, ended a three-fight losing streak by knocking out Dave Dixon (20-3-1), a late replacement, in the first round.

After the main event, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, slated to be Oscar De La Hoya’s next opponent, won a fourth-round technical knockout over Samuel Kamau. Gonzalez is 42-0 with 32 KOs.

Also, Oxnard junior lightweight prospect Robert Garcia won a third-round technical knockout over Jose Luis Madrid. Garcia is 25-0 with 19 KOs.

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