The Contender series concluded with three fights that featured former contenders and young prospects within the Cruiserweight division. These fights reminded me of what the heavyweight division used to be. There was time in which the heavyweight division saw solid fighters with excellent techniques and boxing skills; just watch any replays of Holyfield-Bowe I and II. Today, many heavyweights feature giant dreadnaughts, who fight slow and ponderous. For big men, the Cruiserweights feature a division of rock-solid technicians from top to bottom. The Contender feature fighters who are not quite top 20 but the Cruiserweights is a deep division and these fighters showed what a boxing division can be or should be. A division where even a top 20 is a risk to those at the top and every fight is a competitive affair.
Rico Hoye- Akinyemi “AK-47” Lalege was an example of this. Both fighters averaged averaged 160 punches per round and there are heavyweights fights where one would be lucky to see 160 punches per fight. AK-47 started the first round on Hoye’s chest and nailed the taller American with two left hooks and a couple of rights that shook Hoye. The first round and most of the second round saw Lalege dominated the action but at the end of the round, Hoye nailed AK-47 with solid body shots that took the breath out of the Nigerian and followed with combinations.
From this point, Hoye seized control despite fighting his opponent fight. Hoye rarely used his height but his experience and power sapped the strength of his opponent and it didn’t help that Lalege lost a point deduction in the fifth round. The fight went the distance and Hoye won a unanimous decision, winning every round but the first according to the judges. This victory saved Hoye’s career. Hoye had already lost a previous contender fight and found himself with a career in jeopardy. This fight kept Hoye in the championship hunt and maybe a future fight with top ten fighter. In this fight, AK shots were more accurate but Hoye threw more punches and his punches had more power. Hoye had been a light heavyweight contender with two championship losses; but there is little room for any more losses if Hoye wants a shot at Cruiserweight championship. Hoye joined the Contender Series to keep his career going and get notoriety. At 33, Hoye is still hoping for one more chance at a belt.
Canadian Troy Ross was a knock out terror in this competition and he was fighting Ehinomen Ehikhamenor, another Nigerian fighter for the Contender championship. Ehikhamenor was a upset victor over Rico Hoye. The Nigerian fighter advantage was his quickness but what he lacked was Ross’ power. The first three rounds were close as both fighters connected but Ehikhamenor quickness gave him a slight advantage but in the fourth round, Ross connected with a combination that trapped Ehikhamenor in the corner. Ross won his 21st fight and nabbed his 15th knockout; showing that he has a bright future within the Cruiserweight division.
The final fight featured Felix Cora Jr. and Tim Flamos, a big pounder. Cora,Jr. was once a prospect and was hoping to use the Contender series to jumpstart his career. In his previous fight, Cora, Jr. lost to Ross in a first round knockout and like Hoye before him; Cora was looking for redemption in this fight. In three rounds, Cora skills proved decisive as he delivered his shots with accuracy and in the third round, a hook followed by a straight left that sent Flamos reeling before Flamos hit the canvas.
The Contender series has often been unpredictable series and new stars created. In the first series saw Sergio Mora, who actually would win a portion of the junior Middleweight division and then in the second series, Grady Brewer upset Steve Forbes to win his first big pay day. This year, Troy Ross found himself the champion and hedominated this series more impressively than other past Champions. Ross did not just win; he conquered as his power flattened the opponents and the Canadian put himself in a position for possible championship contention. Combine skills with knockout power and you have a potential star. Ross will have the opportunity to turn this championship into future opportunity.
As for Cora, Jr., he may now become an opponent for his lost to Ross was overwhelming; whereas Hoye’s lost will not be as devastating for his career. As for the Cruiserweights, this was night that remained us that big men can fight with skills.