By Dylan Butler
UNCASVILLE, CONN. — It had all the trappings of a tough loss for heavyweight Monte Barrett.
After 18 months out of the ring, the South Jamaica native jumped in against southpaw Robert Wiggins on just four days notice after winning a six-round decision over Terry Porter March 8.
Wiggins, a hard-nosed unorthodox fighter, took Barrett off his game and the former all-city football standout at John Adams needed to win the last two rounds of the nationally televised 10-round main event.
Barrett rallied. Again.
Just as he did against former heavyweight champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon and Robert Davis, Barrett came from behind to defeat Wiggins on a split decision at the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night.
“I know this guy’s tough. I needed to push myself, I needed a gut check,” said Barrett, who replaced aging former Olympic champ Ray Mercer, who pulled out because of neck and back spasms. “I knew this fight was tight and I knew I needed those last few rounds, the last two for sure. I had to dig deep down.”
Barrett, who improved to 29-2 (15 KOs), won 96-94 on judges Julie Lederman and George Smith's scorecards while Richard Flaherty had Wiggins in front, 97-93.
The TimesLedger scored the fight 96-94 in favor of Barrett, who was preparing for an April 25 fight when he took the Wiggins bout.
“I ain’t going to fool myself. I’ll take this win. The guy was a tough guy,” Barrett said. “I rate my performance about a 6.5, but you know what? I needed a tough, rough fight. I’m a tough, rough guy, you know that right? I’m a good-looking guy, too.”
A little less good looking after an accidental head butt opened up a cut over Barrett’s left eye in the fourth round. A round earlier Wiggins, a 34-year old dockworker from East Providence, R.I., was cut above his right eye on another butt.
“I didn’t bob and weave and duck as much as I should have,” said Wiggins, who lost his last two fights and falls to 17-3-1. “I made his job much easier than it should have been. But the head butts took both of us out of it, made both of us frustrated.”
Barrett, who had a four-inch height advantage, used that edge and his speed early by throwing his jab — although rarely landing it — to keep Wiggins at bay. Barrett threw 119 jabs, most in the first three rounds, landing just 11.
But in the middle rounds Barrett strayed away from his strategy and Wiggins capitalized, winning the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds on two of the three judges’ scorecards by pounding away at Barrett inside.
“The guy’s so damn awkward. I didn’t know what punch was harder, his head punch or his first,” Barrett said. “He was hitting me with elbows, everything.”
With Barrett’s jab non-existent, Wiggins chased Barrett into the corner with a straight right in the seventh round, but Barrett, who landed 27 percent of his punches (113-of-416), took control of the fight in the eighth round.
The 31-year-old, who weighed in at 221.5 pounds, hit Wiggins, who connected on 22 percent of his punches (82-of-365), with several uppercuts in the eighth and ninth rounds and scored with a straight right in the 10th round.
“I started picking up my combinations, but my hands were hurting from hitting him so much in the head,” Barrett said. “I was absolutely catching the guy with my uppercut, but I think I was too straight up and I think I was punching on my toes. I wasn’t on my feet when I was punching so every time I threw an uppercut, he hit me with the inside of his bicep.”
Notes: Barrett was scheduled to fight Wiggins on a nationally televised card from Savannah, Ga. last June, but because of a contractual dispute, Barrett pulled out and was replaced by Derek Bryant, who scored a fourth-round technical knockout.
This was the second fight for Barrett under new manager Stan Hoffman, who also manages former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, who stood in Barrett’s corner during the pre-fight introductions. Hoffman managed former Bayside junior lightweight contender Freddy “The Pit Bull” Liberatore, who lost to Gabe Ruelas by technical knockout in 1995.
“The guy was a southpaw and obviously, since we got the call Monday, we had no southpaw sparing,” said Hoffman. “Two, he wasn’t exactly ready for a fight, but we felt we could pull it out with this guy. Three, it shows me the things that I think need to be worked on and we’ll start working on them now that I’ve really seen him in a fight.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.