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Hooker KOs Saucedo, defends WBO junior welterweight title  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maurice Hooker knows how to perform when the crowd is against him.

Just ask Alex Saucedo.

Hooker spoiled Saucedo's homecoming by knocking him out in the seventh round Friday night, successfully defending his WBO junior welterweight title.

In front of a crowd of 4,102 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Hooker (25-0-3, 17 KOs) dominated much of the action on his way to the technical knockout.

Hooker, a Dallas native, was defending his title for the first time. He won the vacant belt against Terry Flanagan in a split-decision June 9 in Flanagan's hometown of Manchester, England, so he had experience dealing with a hostile environment.

He said he tuned out the noise in Oklahoma City.

"I had faith in myself,'" Hooker said. "I believe in myself. And I said once I get in the ring, it's just me and him one-on-one, and not the crowd."

Hooker used his reach to keep Saucedo at bay in the first round, though the crowd was loud and chanted "O-K-C!" several times.

Saucedo (28-1) put Hooker on the canvas with a right early in the second round, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Hooker said he made a mistake.

"The second round, he caught me with a shot," he said. "Not bad. I put my hands down. He caught me. A little bit out of balance."

Hooker's nose was bloodied, but Saucedo couldn't finish him.

Saucedo had Hooker on the ropes for most of the fifth round, but Hooker showed he had some energy left with a flurry in the closing seconds of the round.

"Let me tell you, he didn't really hit me," Hooker said. "I know he was young, he was hungry. Once I got on the ropes, he done went crazy and dumb, and that's exactly what he did."

Hooker took charge in the seventh. He forced a standing eight count, and then finished Saucedo later in the round.

"I knew the first of the round, my right hand was landing," Hooker said. "I could tell in his eye it was hurting, but he's a warrior. Late in the round, he couldn't take that power."

In the other big match of the night, Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs) knocked out Nicaragua's Roberto Arriaza (17-1) in the third round with WBO world welterweight champion Terence Crawford watching at ringside.

Arriaza looked strong in the first round. Kavaliauskas rallied in the second, despite suffering a cut under his right eye from a head butt. The "Mean Machine" knocked Arriaza out with a crushing right to the head in the final seconds of the third round.

Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank Boxing, promotes both Crawford and Kavaliauskas. He said they "are going to look very closely at having Egidijus challenge Crawford for the welterweight title" in the first quarter of 2019.

"I want to fight the best in the welterweight division, and the best guy right now is Terence Crawford," Kavaliauskas said. "I am ready for that fight next."

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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