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Late sub Sparkman stuns Lashin in 8-round decision

Kenny Craven of Laurel follows through after a punch to the head of Stacy Goodson, left. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/09/01] Johar Abu Lashin showed up at Ameristar casino Sunday for a quick win and an easy payday. Sammy Sparkman showed up for a fight.

Sparkman, a late substitution on the “Rumble by the River” card, electrified the crowd and lit up Lashin for eight rounds, winning a close unanimous decision in the main event.

Sparkman improved to 13-7-1 with the upset of the International Boxing Council’s super lightweight champion. Sunday’s fight was not for the title, and Sparkman said he thought Lashin took him too lightly.

“I think maybe he did, and that’s exactly what we were looking for,” Sparkman said.

Lashin, who had small cuts inside his nose and on his lip, as well as a slightly swollen left eye from Sparkman’s constant jabs, admitted that he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been.

“He was a mediocre fighter, but he was the best man today and that’s it. I can’t put him down,” said Lashin, who was also fighting with a broken hand suffered last week. “I’m very disgusted with myself because I’m a champion and I’m supposed to look good, and I didn’t.”

The main event was easily the best fight of the six on the card, which featured four first-round knockouts and a four-round decision by Laurel’s Kenny Cravens over Stacy Goodsen, a last-minute substitution from Arkansas.

Goodsen, a cruiserweight with a 22-26 record, was assisting another fighter on the card when he was asked to fill in for Charles McDonough, who didn’t show up.

“He stepped in and saved the day. If he hadn’t fought, my whole trip over here would have been for nothing,” Cravens said.

Although Cravens was grateful for the fight, he didn’t show it once the bell rang. Cravens pummeled Goodsen for all four rounds, scoring five knockdowns and another near-knockdown that was prevented by the ropes.

“I could sense I was a lot better than he was. I’m not in the hurt business,” said Cravens (19-7), who will fight Pascagoula’s Darren Versiga for the Mississippi Boxing Federation cruiserweight title July 28 in Hattiesburg. “I was just going to let him earn a paycheck and get some work.”

By the end of their eight-round war, that was probably what Lashin was hoping Sparkman had been thinking.

Lashin started strong, staggering Sparkman about halfway through the first round. But Sparkman didn’t go down, and came back with a vengeance in the second, outworking Lashin in the first 21/2 minutes.

He was never able to knock Lashin down, but did come close with a bruising right hook late in the third round and another right hand halfway through the fourth that backed Lashin into the corner.

Sparkman took control of the fight in the second, third and fourth rounds, but tired by the fifth round in the 95-degree heat and allowed Lashin to land some quality shots.

Even when winded, Sparkman recovered nicely when he was in trouble and finished the last 20 seconds of each round with strong flurries that may have made the difference with the judges.

“Every time you come into a bout you need to win the last 30 seconds or the judges forget everything else,” Sparkman said.

The two went toe-to-toe for much of the eighth round, but Sparkman again finished strong and had Lashin in trouble when the final bell sounded. That last flurry probably saved Sparkman from a draw or a split decision two of the judges scored the fight 77-75 in his favor.

“It was a little bit closer than I thought, but he won the fight,” Lashin said.

Elsewhere on the undercard, Hattiesburg’s Beau Skipper demolished Tupelo’s Chuck Pyle in the first fight. Skipper (2-0) opened two cuts on Pyle’s face and put Pyle (0-1) on his back with seven seconds left in the first round.

Pyle, who was obviously exhausted by the middle of the round, got up on the count of nine but the referee stopped the fight.

“I was just trying to take the wind out of him because he was swinging wild,” Skipper said.

Another fighter from Tupelo, Nelson Browning, fell victim to a crushing left hook from Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s Brad Thompson and never recovered.

Browning (7-4) somehow kept his feet in part because the blow knocked him toward the corner and ropes and received a standing-eight count, but Thompson (5-0) attacked with a strong flurry that ended the fight at the 2:13 mark of the first round.

“I noticed every time I stepped inside he dropped his right hand,” Thompson said. “I felt the first (hook) landed solid, and I knew he was still going to be hurt when he got up. I wasn’t going to let him through that round.”

Browning, who beat Thompson in a four-round decision two months ago, said he just took Thompson too lightly.

“When I hit him with my left I got comfortable. He just caught me comfortable,” Browning said.

Before the crowd could catch its breath from the Lashin-Sparkman bout, Meridian’s Adrian Watkins plowed through Arkansas’ Tanya Apple. Watkins bloodied Apple and won by knockout in less than a minute.

The last fight on the card, a lightweight bout between Tim Bentley (0-2) and Tommy “The Ghost” Eads (2-1), was stopped late in the first round when Bentley didn’t properly defend himself.

Eads dominated the fight, mostly landing hard body shots, but Bentley was never in serious trouble.

“I noticed when I was in my punch that he was turning his head, and that’s a sign to the referee that he doesn’t want to fight,” Eads said.

Ameristar officials said more than 1,000 tickets were sold, but only about 500 people braved the sweltering heat to watch the fights. Still, the turnout was good enough to ensure a return match with Vicksburg.

Frank Beaty, Director of Entertainment for Ameristar, said another weekend card could be staged as soon as September, but a date early next year was more likely to avoid conflicts with football and help draw a larger crowd.