By: William Holmes
The Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York was the host for tonight’s Boxcino middleweight tournament semifinals on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Banner Promotions was the driving force behind this tournament and it has produced valuable exposure for the boxers and quality fights for boxing fans in the United States.
Tonight’s broadcast was slightly delayed due to an all-star high school basketball game on ESPN 2. Both of the tournament bouts were scheduled for eight rounds.
The first bout of the night was not a boxcino tournament fight and between Donovan Dennis (11-1) and Nate Heaven (8-0) in the heavyweight division. Nate Heaven took tonight’s fight on five days’ notice and was considered by many to be the underdog, but the short preparation for the bout did not affect Dennis’ performance in the ring.
Dennis, a southpaw, was landing his left hand often early on in the first round but Heaven was throwing hard counter right hands to keep Dennis honest. Dennis landed a big right hand in the middle of the round and followed it up with two more left hooks to the temple. Both fighters were throwing bombs near the end of the round, but Nate Heaven connected with a perfect straight right on Dennis’ chin that sent him crashing to the floor.
Dennis barely got up before the count of ten at the end of the round but was still on wobbly legs. The referee immediately waived off the fight and gave Heaven an upset TKO win at 3:00 of the first round.
The next bout of the night was between Brandon Adams (13-0) and Raymond Gatica (14-2) in a semifinal middleweight bout.
Brandon Adams was riding a streak of six straight knockouts, but Gatica made it known early that he was here to fight by landing the very first punch he threw, a straight left hand. Gatica continued to fight well in the first round, by staying out of Adams’ range and connecting with short combinations from a favorable distance.
Adams however began to turn the tide of the fight in the second round when he connected with a sharp counter right hand that seemingly gave him some confidence. He continued to stay in punching range and landed his straight right hands and attacked the body of Gatica.
Gatica momentarily trapped Adams in the corner in the third round, but Adams fought back and connected with some solid left hooks while his back was against the ropes. Adams continued to land his straight right hand and clearly controlled the third.
Two straight right hands by Adams in the fourth round stunned Gatica. Adams continued to slip a lot of Gatica’s punches and wobbled Gatica at the end of the fourth.
Adams opened up the fifth round with a straight right hand and a two punch combination. By this point of the fight he had nullified the offense of Adams. Adams snapped the head of Gatica backwards with a straight right hand in the end of the fifth and was completely in control of the fight.
Gatica had a decent sixth round and may have won it due to being more active inside the ring, but none of his punches seemed to hurt Adams. To most observers Gatica needed a stoppage in the final two rounds to win, but Adams continued to counter Gatica effectively.
The final scores were 78-74 Adams, 78-74 Adams, and somehow the final judge scored it 77-75 for Gatica.
The final bout of the night was the semifinal bout between Vitalii Kopylenko (23-0) and Willie Monroe Jr. (16-1). Kopylenko was considered by many to be the favorite to win the fight, but Monroe had other ideas.
Kopylenko came into the bout with a very visible bruise on his left shoulder. Kopylenko landed a straight right hand early in the first round, but Monroe quickly adjusted and stayed out of the range of Kopylenko’s power. He landed a looping right hook in the first round, and followed that up with a three punch combination. He increased his work rate as the first round progressed and was very effective with his jab.
Monroe’s legs and quick hands seemed to have knocked Kopylenko off of his game plan as Monroe’ boxed masterfully in the second round. He was moving in and out of Kopylenko’s range all while landing quick combinations and avoiding the power of Kopylenko. Monroe stunned Kopylenko in the second round with a straight left hand.
Monroe continued to fight his type of fight in the third round and was slipping most of Kopylenko’s punches. Monroe landed several clean shots in the third, and his straight left hand found it’s home often.
Monroe’s mouthpiece was knocked out of his mouth by Kopylenko in the fourth round, but that was the only meaningful punch landed by Kopylenko in the fourth. Monroe simply outboxed Kopylenko, and continued to do so in the fifth round.
Kopylenko did not look very confident inside the ring in the last three rounds and needed a knockout to win. But Monroe continued to stick and move, and he easily outlanded the flat flooted Kopylenko.
Kopylenko’s left shoulder may have been more injured than he let on, but Monroe put on a masterful performance in a mild upset. The final scores were 78-74, 79-73, and 79-73.