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Whitaker saves big-money showdown against De La Hoya with late KO

January 25, 1997

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ The fight was slipping away from Pernell Whitaker, and with it a big-money payday.

Unbeaten and unheralded Diobelys Hurtado, 24, of Cuba, was pounding the 33-year-old WBC Welterweight champion with combinations and eluding him with awkward lateral movements. He had knocked him down twice and was leading on all three cards.

In the 11th round, Whitaker saved the day _ and his April 12 fight against WBC super lightweight champ Oscar De La Hoya _ with a furious barrage of lefts that knocked Hurtado into the ropes and kept him there.

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,″ said Hurtado, who was taken to Atlantic City Medical Center for a CAT scan that the promoter described as a pre-caution.

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 had Hurtado leading 94-91.

The first round was inauspicious for Whitaker. He was knocked down by the fight’s first punch. In the sixth, after Whitaker had landed a low blow to draw a warning, he went down again from a right-left to the head.

Now, De La Hoya was biting his nails. ``I was nervous about not fighting Whitaker. I really wasn’t thinking about the money,″ De La Hoya said.

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

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

``On April 12, the teacher meets the student,″ Whitaker said. ``And he’s got to give him the apple.″

The fight, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, will be held outdoors on a ring built above the casino’s fountains, Caesars World president Rich Rose said.

``I’m just very glad and happy he got this knockout,″ De La Hoya said.

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