NILES - It took Niles native Billy Lyell eight rounds, but he successfully defended his NABC Inter-Continental middleweight title Saturday night at the Eastwood Expo Center.
Lyell, ranked No. 15 by IBF and No. 16 by WBC, won by unanimous decision as the three judges scored it 77-75, 78-74 and 79-73.
Lyell (21-7, 4 KOs) came out tough early in the match - wanting to score the knockout on Baton Rouge, La.'s Chris Gray (12-11, 1 KO). Lyell was landing some left-handed jabs, but tried to combine that into one devastating blow.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Billy Lyell, left, delivers a punch to challenger Chris Gray on Saturday night. To view or purchase copies of this photo or others, visit cu.tribtoday.com
"In the beginning, I got a little excited with all the fans - all the local support," Lyell said. "I got a little carried away trying to land that big punch early.
"I started to get into the fight and thought it was a good, tough fight."
Gray's record doesn't indicate it, but he's beaten some previously undefeated fighters.
"I looked at his opponents on boxrec.com," Lyell said. "He was competitive with world-class fighters.
"I knew I was in for a tough night."
Lyell was relying on his jabs a little more, but Gray started to increase his intensity with some body blows of his own in the later rounds.
"He did a heckuva job and hung in there tough," Lyell said.
Gray thought he'd won the decision.
"All day, baby. ... Thank you, Jesus," Gray said in the moments after the fight.
Now, Lyell prepares for the future with his trainer Keith Burnside and manager Pat Nelson.
"I'm just excited to get in the rounds," Lyell said. "Every time I want to get better and improve a little bit more.
"I just want to fight as much as possible and keep improving."
In the end, Guiriceo won by major decision over Hope.
"By far, he was my toughest opponent," Guiriceo said.
Guiriceo started a couple of good combinations on Hope, making the South Carolina native stagger - trying to keep his legs upright.
Body shots landed and a couple of uppercuts attempts barely missed in those late-round flurries, but Guiriceo kept control of the fight.
"I was confident with my combinations and tried to get them in their fast," Guiriceo said. "I was landing some good shots. He was taking them."
The southpaw took that adrenaline rush and made quick work of Craig, a former Olympic fighter - making some quick, fast punches en route to slowing Craig. Richardson won the fight when it was stopped at the 1:25 mark of the first round.
"I wanted to throw crisp punches and be accurate," Richardson said.
Richardson didn't predict that bout would go that quickly.
"I wanted it to be," he said.