WASHINGTON -- What a great move it was, the North American Boxing Federation decreeing its welterweight title was for grabs and that Derrell Coley and Terrance Alli could trade haymakers for the belt at the Convention Center last night.
After just a couple of rounds, it was apparent that this one would qualify as a nominee for "fight of the year" on USA Network's "Tuesday Night Fights" series.
Most in the audience thought this one was likely in the bag for the unbeaten Coley since Alli has been fighting since 1979 and everyone figured he was just a couple of years away from collecting social security. Wrong and Wrong.
Coley, despite a constantly-widening edge on the cards of the judges, never was completely out of danger until he recorded his 24th straight victory and 17th knockout when referee Sylvester Stevens stopped the fight midway in the 11th round after Derrell rained about two dozen punches on the head and body of Alli in no more than 10 seconds.
"At no time did I think this fight was going to easy," said the victor. "Alli's dangerous, he certainly came to fight and, if I had it to do over, I wouldn't change anything in that fight." It figures.
Alli, now 52-10, is the type fighter who never takes a backward step against an opponent, often charging at him as though he's a defensive end trying to sack the quarterback. This all-out frontal assault is intended to send an inexperienced foe into a panic, but Coley was having none of it. He must have thrown a couple hundred punches over the first four rounds, a good percentage of them landing, but Alli just kept coming.
"I know I couldn't knock him out with one punch," said Coley, "so I didn't get nervous when he was still there after the first few rounds. I wasn't going after the knockout; I boxed and certainly would have won on points."
While Alli's pressing all the time, he gives the impression of fighting when, in actuality, he's blocking a ton of punches with his gloves and otherwise stressing defense. It's easy to see how opponents could tire themselves out for, when the fifth round arrived, Terrance went on the offense and his quick combinations inside stunned Coley.
"He hurt me twice," Coley admitted, "so I knew I couldn't rush things. I didn't want to burn out. Thing is, this was far and away my toughest fight and I expect the next one to be even tougher. I'm not going to be knocking these good guys out."
Off the ability to move and throw punches in bunches while moving side-to-side or even backward, the winner's ring generalship appeared sufficient to hold him in good stead against the top guns in the 147-pound division.
Alli, who has had just one fight since being stopped by the renowned Julio Cesar Chavez in mid-1993, looked like anything but a washed-up fighter who, surprisingly, just celebrated his 34th birthday. He made Coley fight every second of every round, took innumerable left hooks and straight rights and was still full of pep just seconds after the fight had been halted.
While Derrell Coley was proving he's the genuine article in the main event, former Olympic heavyweight Larry Donald gave strong indication he'll become a huge factor among the big guys shortly. Still unbeaten after 16 fights (12 KOs) after winning all 10 rounds against trialhorse Dan Murphy (42-14), the 27-year-old Donald is multi-talented.
He has the basic punches needed, left jab and hook and right cross. He throws combinations, flurries, has quick hands, good defense and moves, things few heavyweights can be accused of possessing these days.
He decked Murphy with a snap right at the end of round six and, thereafter, the loser slipped into his survival mode.
"I had no problem with that," said Donald. "In fact, I think this was a very important fight for me. He did a lot of things I'm not used to seeing, like elbowing, holding on and butting me. Now I know what to look for in future bouts."
Besides, Dan Murphy showed up in the winner's dressing room afterward and related, "I fought Lennox Lewis in his 15th fight and believe me, kid, you're much better than he was at this stage."
Of course, it helped that although Donald didn't take the match until last Friday, he had spent the two prior weeks getting Orlin Norris ready for his fight with Arthur Williams over the weekend sparring at Lake Tahoe.