March 5, 2016 – Shout out to Marshall Kauffman and Kings Promotions who continue their run of producing very good boxing shows. On this particular evening, the Reading based outfit went live across the country on Showtime Boxing from the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. The on TV fights produced fireworks and the off-TV battles were pretty damn good in their own right.
On a show that was in cahoots with GH3 Promotions and DiBella Entertainment, fight fans saw a young fighter springboard into title contention, a true Fight of the Year candidate and a couple of prospects get put to the test in tough bouts.
The near sell-out crowd was a lively mixture of people from different walks of life and the venue itself seems custom-built to accommodate a professional boxing show. An old-timer said to me “this is how all the fights used to be!”
In the main event – Philadelphia’s Julian Williams “did what he needed to do” and knocked out a tougher-than-advertised Marcello Matano of Italy in the 7th round of their 154 pound IBF title elimination bout.
Coming into the fight many were wondering “how on God’s green Earth did Matano back door into a mandatory title shot”? While the Italiano rumbler may not be of the elite class, he did give it everything he had and made young J-Rock earn it each round.
Throughout the course of the fight, Williams (22-0-1, 14 KO) showed the patience of a rattlesnake. He would wait for the right moments to place punches on his high intensity opponent. When he fired, it was like he couldn’t miss. The jab and the hooks were all on point throughout the contest. In the early going he was a bit too cavalier in his approach, allowing Matano to stay in the hunt through five rounds.
Though every round was competitive, Williams clearly won each frame. Once he began to mix in some hard body work, it was curtains for Matano’s (16-2, 5 KO), who was outgunned but gave a commendable effort in his first fight on American soil.
By round seven the work downstairs opened the door for Williams to unload on Matano. A fierce flurry highlighted by a crisp left hook dropped the Italian late in the round. The bout would go no further as referee Gary Rosato waved off the contest at the 2:24 mark.
With the win, J-Rock has stamped his ticket to a world title bout against IBF 154 pound title holder Jermell Charlo. The Texas-based champion has two choices – he must fight the young Philadephian or vacate the title. No two ways around it.
The pressure style Matano used has opened the door for some questions about how Williams would respond when under fire from a fighter with a similar style who does not throw such soft, wide punches. For the first time in many fights, we saw someone stand up to Williams (at least in the early going) and return fire.
How do you see that one playing out?
After the fight – WIlliams quickly called out the Charlo’s saying:
“Jermall has been watching my performances. Him and his brother know exactly who I am. He needs to fight or vacate now. He needs to step up, but he’s already laying his groundwork and making excuses.
“Step up and fight me. It’s two of the best junior middleweights in the world. It’s about greatness. I want to be great. All of you turkeys at 154 pounds, let’s fight.”
After the fight, Matano was not pleased with the stoppage even though he was obviously wobbly long after the final bell sounded.
“He was pretty fast with his jab, but I felt like I was just getting into the fight,” Matano said. “I felt the punch, but I felt like I could have kept going. I have a warrior heart and I never want to quit.
In the supporting bout – 35-year-old Avtandil Khurtsidze of European Georgia stole the show with a 10th round TKO victory over the previously undefeated Antoine Douglas (19-1-1, 13 KOs) in a true 2016 Fight of the Year candidate.
Talk about being bit by the industry. In the lead up to this fight, Douglas accepted a change in opponents 12 days prior to bell time in order to keep this coveted TV slot.
He prepared all camp for the squirrely Sam Solomon, and at the last-minute, had to face a 5’4″ mini Mike Tyson. Everyone “in the know” expected this to be a good fight. As it turned out, we had a classic on our hands.
The middleweight action was non-stop through all rounds with Khurtsidze getting the better of most exchanges. The tough veteran did not stop moving forward and scored two knockdowns before finishing off the Virginia born prospect.
While Khurtsidze was clearly in the lead, Douglas showed tremendous amounts of heart. Maybe a little too much for his own good as he spent the remainder of his Saturday night in the hospital before being released the next day.
There were instances where Douglas would take many clean head shots, stay in the pocket and return rapid fire combinations on his hard-headed foe.
After almost being knocked out of the ring in round three, Douglas rebounded to win the forth, fifth and possibly the sixth rounds before being dropped again in round seven.
Both boxers had many vocal supporters in the crowd which brought an added element of electricity to a dramatic fight that was already at fever pitch.
It came down to the gas – and Khurtsidze has more in the tank in the final frame. He continued to work and eventually pinned a drained Douglas on the ropes, firing away lefts and rights and lefts and rights until referee Benji Esteves called a halt to the bout at 0:33 of round ten.
Watch highlights here
“He definitely dictated,” Douglas said afterward. “He definitely had a better day today. It’s not discouraging, we just weren’t able to execute. Naturally, I’m crushed. It’s back to the drawing board.”
Douglas’ prompter Mielnicki told USA Today “He is a future champ, special kid,” “I, as his promoter, should not have taken the fight with a short, experienced fighter on last-minute notice to satisfy others. Soliman is a jelly bean, all over the place, that’s what he was ready for.
“Instead, I put a brick, compact midget in front of him that keeps coming. Not a good business move on my part, the kid will fight anyone. You can not get ready for a guy like that in 12 days, it’s impossible, especially with a young, upcoming star.”
After the fight the winner talked to the media through an interpreter who said:
“I knew he was going to get tired,” “I felt like I was going to catch him. He’s a good fighter, but he’s not strong.
“I knew he was going to be hungry. But I also knew that I was going to beat him. It was short notice but I did everything I could in the time we had. I stayed in the gym and stayed sharp.
“Whoever they put in front me, I’m ready for them. I love fighting. I’ll fight anybody.”
In the TV opener – Detroit, Michigan Middleweight Tony Harrison (23-1, 19 KOs) pounded former prospect Fernando Guerrero (28-4, 20 KOs) for the majority of their scheduled ten round fight, scoring multiple knockdowns before stopping the Dominican fighter in the sixth round.
Harrison was explosive early and closed the show in style, but he did let Guerrero back in the fight in rounds four and five. Fernando overcame a shaky start to become the aggressor. Harrison had his problems when forced to fight moving backwards.
The rally was short-lived and Harrison was back in the driver seat in round six, scoring a knockdown and following up with a flurry that forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the fight at the 1:56 mark of the round.
Guerrero’s fall from grace came with the speed of a dropped bowling ball. After suffering four knockout losses, he is a far cry from the exciting young fighter who packing the house in Salisbury Maryland not so long ago. It is time to consider hanging up the gloves.
After the fight he told the media “I wasn’t on today. He wasn’t faster than me, stronger than me or more skilled. I just locked up. I wasn’t listening to my corner, I didn’t do anything tonight.
“It just happens. Sometimes you have a bad day. Today was as bad as I could ever imagine.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. We trained so hard. He wasn’t as fast or strong as we thought he’d be. Today was a bad day for me to have a bad day.”
After the fight Harrison told the boxing media that he wants to avenge his lone career loss.
“I was backing him up. My game plan was to take advantage of the fact that southpaws don’t fight well going backwards. I tried to just keep putting him back and discouraging him. I told everyone I was taking the fight to him. What’s not to like about me? I’m exciting.
On the under card…
Middleweight prospect Ievgen Khytrov (13-0, 11 KOs) looks like he has the makings of a real prospect. On this night he overcame an early cut over his left eye to win a hard-fought 10-round unanimous decision over Kenneth McNeil (9-2, 6 KOs).
It was a very good two-way fight where both men found success in different stages of the action. The “Ukranian Lion” won rounds one and two on the strength of his pressure and power punching. McNeil held his own by using the ring to his advantage and placing well-timed punches on his aggressive opponent.
“Bullet Hands” McNeil stepped his game up in round three, deciding to fight fire with fire, hanging in the pocket and exchanging hard punches with the stronger foe.
This theme continued into round five. The kitchen was hot and Ievgen changed the flow of the game with a strong right hand that put McNeil on the retreat.
Ievgen carried on his power punching ways to win rounds six and seven, though McNeil was in the hunt the entire time.
McNeil came out throwing bombs in the final rounds, but was a little too aggressive for his own good. He landed two low blows in the final rounds. Ievgen overcame the second testicle squasher to score a late knockdown.
McNeil was able to beat the count and fought hard until the end. It wasn’t enough for him as it went to the scorecards which read 99-90 x 2 and 97-92 for the undefeated fighter who went a hard ten rounds for the first time in his career.
Heavyweights Joey Dawejko (16-4-3, 9 KOs) and Ytalo Perea (6-2-1, 4 KOs) slugged away at each other for eight rounds to a split-draw. “The Tank” tried to end this fight inside of the first :30 seconds of round one. He stormed out of the corner at the sound of the opening bell, throwing punches with the intentions of knocking Perea’s head into the sixth row.
Perea, fighter who represented Ecuador in the 2012 Olympics, ate some early leather but did no go away. He weathered the storm and by round two Dawejko was breathing out of his mouth.
Though winded, both fighters took turns landing punches throughout the contest. It seemed that Dawejko was a bit more active and by far landed the harder punches. It was a good, close one through five rounds.
Dawejko looked to have the advantages in rounds six and seven. He was more patient in these rounds, waiting for spots to fire off combinations, most of which landed. Perea was game and fought back every inch of the way.
Perea gave his best shot to win toward the end and landed some bombs early in round eight. This led to a couple good exchanges in the center of the ring. “The Tank” put on another hard flurry as the :10 knock sounded but it wasn’t enough to put away his surprisingly tough foe.
It went to the scorecards where the officials saw it 78-74 for Dawejko, 77-75 for Perea and 76-76 to make it a split draw.
I saw it 5 rounds to 3 for Dawejko. After the fight Dawejko’s manager Mark Cipparone went to social media to give some insight his charges performance.
In other action…
Super Middleweight Anthony Miller (3-1, 3 KOs) scored a 1st round TKO over the previous undefeated Terrance Williams (4-1, 1 KO)
Light Heavyweight Amir Shabazz (3-0, 1 KO) blew out Hakeem Atkinson (2-2, 1 KO) with a 1st round TKO,
Super Welterweight Chordale Booker made a stylish pro debut with a second-round TKO over Anthony Allen (0-2).