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Angelo Leo’s hard work pays off with WBO title

Angelo Leo, right, lands a right hand to the head of Tramaine Williams during Saturday night’s WBO super bantamweight title bout at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Leo, an Albuquerque native, won by unanimous decision. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

All those miles logged in the Spring Mountains, northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

All the hours jumping rope, hitting the heavy bag, hitting the speed bag, all the rounds of sparring at the Mayweather gym in Vegas.

For Angelo Leo, the ultimate payoff came Saturday night: a World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title, won in decisive fashion at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“Boxing is the ultimate truth-teller,” the Albuquerque native said after his victory by unanimous decision over Tramaine Williams. “… Once you get in that ring, if you didn’t train hard enough, if you didn’t do your roadwork, it will show up there.”

So it did, though the outcome wasn’t necessarily a matter of Leo being in better shape than Williams was. More, it was Leo, after a tepid first two rounds, boring in on Williams like a rabid wolverine — nonstop.

All three judges scored the first two rounds for Williams (19-1, six knockouts), as the New Haven, Connecticut southpaw scored with right jabs and counter lefts.

But in the third, Leo (20-0, nine KOs) closed the distance and began a relentless body attack that Williams never found a way to escape or counter.

“(Leo’s) attack is more ‘body-centric’ than any fighter I’ve seen in quite a while,” said Showtime analyst Al Bernstein. That’s a skill Leo developed early in his boxing education under the tutelage of his father, Miguel, in Albuquerque before both moved to Las Vegas in 2017.

Nor did Leo neglect the head, as he progressively brought Williams’ hands down with body shots. Williams continued to land isolated shots but rarely was able to put punches together while under Leo’s constant assault.

“Leo’s a guy that’s always working,” said Showtime analyst Abner Mares, a former world champion, during the seventh round. “No matter what position, even if it’s uncomfortable, he’s still working in there, still working and breaking that body.”

Two of three judges scored rounds 3 through 12 for Leo. One judge scored the sixth for Williams, though it was difficult to understand why — unless the judge was influenced by a low blow Leo delivered during that round. Later, it was Williams who hit Leo below the belt — both low blows resulting in brief interruptions in the bout.

During the fight, the Showtime broadcast team made reference to Leo having said in pre-fight interviews he hoped to stage a Picasso-like performance.

It certainly was no Rembrandt, not as artistic as a performance from the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard or Floyd Mayweather Jr., Leo’s promoter and mentor, might have been. As Bernstein noted, large portions of the bout could have been contested in a phone booth.

No matter. For Leo, the picture was near-perfect.

“That was the key factor in this fight,” Leo said afterward, “the body work and the pressure, definitely.”

Leo joins four other Albuquerqueans — Bob Foster, Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero and Holly Holm — as a boxing world champion. He’s the sixth New Mexican to do so, joining the aforementioned four and Las Cruces’ Austin Trout.

Williams was a late replacement for Stephen Fulton Jr., Leo’s original opponent, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. After Saturday’s bout, the WBO announced plans to have Leo defend against Fulton within 180 days.

Bring it on, Leo said.

“Just be ready,” he said, addressing Fulton. “… We’re gonna make it a war.”

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