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Whitaker comes back to KO challenger

January 25, 1997

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Pernell Whitaker said that Diobelys Hurtado gave him his money’s worth. In fact, the 10-1 underdog came very close to costing Whitaker a huge chunk of change.

Behind on all three official cards after having been knocked down in the first and sixth rounds, Whitaker knocked out the 24-year-old Cuban with a terrible barrage of left hands to the head in the 11th round Friday night and saved his major-money match against Oscar De La Hoya on April 12 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

``I love it, I love it. That’s what boxing’s all about,″ said De La Hoya, who was miked at ringside. ``Pernell fought the best fight. He’s a great champion. On April 12, it’s going to be a great fight. Pernell is going to be the best that he can be and I’m going to be the best that I can be.″

The sensational ending enabled the 33-year-old Whitaker to retain the WBC welterweight championship. De La Hoya is the WBC super lightweight champion.

In the 11th round, Whitaker nailed Hurtado with a left to the head as the Cuban stood with his back to the ropes. Whitaker followed with nine more clubbing lefts.

Hurtado almost went through the ropes, then slumped to the canvas unconscious. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. ruled it a knockout at 1 minute, 52 seconds of the round.

``I lost sight for a minute. I didn’t see it (the first left) coming,″ Hurtado said through an interpreter. He was taken to an Atlantic City hospital for a cat-scan.

``It’s not over until we say it’s over,″ crowed Whitaker.

Judges Sergio Silvio of Italy had Hurtado leading 96-91 after 10 rounds, Jose Carasco of Spain favored Hurtado 94-92 and John Stewart had Hurtado ahead 93-92.

The Associated Press card had Hurtado leading 94-91.

It was a fast-paced, rough and dirty fight. Hurtado was penalized a point in the fifth round and again in the seventh for hitting behind the head. Whitaker was penalized a point in the ninth for the same foul.

``I knew I had to keep the pressure on. It was only a matter of time until I caught him,″ Whitaker said.

But it looked like time had run out for Whitaker.

With De La Hoya watching from ringside, Whitaker came out at the opening bell, was nailed by a 1-2 and went down. He jumped up and grinned.

Then in the sixth round, after Whitaker had landed a low blow to draw a warning, he went down again from a right-left to the head. He bounced up again quickly.

It looked like Hurtado’s speed might carry him to victory. For most of the fight, Hurtado circled and made Whitaker chase him. But when Hurtado stood and fought, he more than held his own as Whitaker, known for his brilliant boxing, often was off balance.

Hurtado seemed to have the best of the ninth and 10th rounds and was leading by three points on the AP’s card. Then Whitaker, like the champion he has long been, caught Hurtado along the ropes and ended it.

``He fought a terrific fight,″ Whitaker said of Hurtado, 24, who defected from Cuba in 1994 and now lives in Miami. ``He fought like a champion.″

CompuBox credited Whitaker with landing 168 punches to 131 for Hurtado. Whitaker missed 280 punches and Hurtado missed 298.

Hurtado, however, dictated the pace of the fight and did have those two knockdowns.

Whitaker, a former lightweight, super lightweight and junior middleweight champion, now has a 40-1-1 record with 17 knockouts. Hurtado is 23-1 with 13 knockouts.

Whitaker earned $2 million and Hurtado got $120,000.

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