By: William Holmes
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY opened their doors at 4:30 PM for fight fans to enjoy six bouts on the undercard of tonight’s IBF Light Heavyweight Title fight between Bernard Hopkins and Tavoris Cloud. There were more fans in attendance for the opening bout than most Las Vegas crowds, but there were still plenty of empty seats in the arena and parts of the upper deck were draped over when the the first bell rang.
New York native Steve Bujaj (8-0) and Philadelphia Zeferino Albino (4-15-3) competed in tonight’s first fight in the cruiserweight division. As expected, Bujaj dominated this four round affair and landed several stiff uppercuts in the first three rounds. Albino displayed a granite chin and somehow managed to stay on his feet. Albino came on strong in the last round by landing several looping overhand rights on Bujaj by the corner and got the crowd excited and hoping for an upset. But it was too little too late and Bujaj swept the cards with a 40-36 victory.
Brooklyn native Claude Staten Jr. (0-0) made his professional debut against Mike Hill (0-1) in the junior featherweight division. The wild swinging Hill was no match for the composed, disciplined, and much taller Staten. Staten scored an early first round knockdown and stunned Hill in the third round with crispy straight right hands. This bout was another clean sweep for the victor as Staten won 40-35 on all three cards.
The next bout of the night was between Frank Galarza (8-0-1) and Guillermo Ibarra (7-1) in the junior middleweight division. On paper this was the best bout of the undercard, but in the ring it appeared to be the biggest mismatch. Ibarra looked soft and slow inside the ring and Galarza’s lead left hooks and uppercuts were doing damage in the first round. Ibarra went down in the second round after being pummeled by Galarza near the ropes. As soon as Ibarra got back to his feet Galarza landed a thudding right hook to the body sending Ibarra to the mat again, and this time Ibarra did not get back up. Galarza remained undefeated with a 2nd round TKO at 2:19.
U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne (2-0) fought next in the light heavyweight division against an overmatched Josh Thorpe (1-2). Thorpe had to ask the referee which corner was his when he went into the ring, and he clearly looked to be afraid of his opponent. Browne had a small but vocal contingent chanting his name as he walked into the ring. Both fighters were southpaws, but Thorpe employed a tactic of duck and cover and avoid all physical engagements. Browne scored a first round knockdown by landing a double left hook. Thorpe got back to his feet but again covered up near the corner while trying to block combinations from Browne. The referee wisely stopped the fight at 2:42 of the first round.
Bronx native Eddie Gomez (12-0) and Tijuana, Mexico native Javier Gomez (14-10) fought next in the junior middleweight division. The fans were treated three stoppages in a row as the short and compact Eddie Gomez made very quick work of Javier Gomez. He landed a flush left hook followed by a combination that sent Javier to the mat in the first round. He was clearly still out of it when he got back to his feet and the referee stopped the bout at 1:17 of the first round.
Newark, NJ native Michael Perez (18-1-1) and Lonnie Smith (14-4-2) fought on the last untelevised bout of the undercard. The crowd had begun to fill out the Barclays Center by the time this bout began, and the action did not disappoint. Perez started off strong as he stayed on the outside and peppered Smith his jab. Smith was clearly trying to apply pressure and work in tight, but he paid for his aggressiveness in the second round by eating a left uppercut and being knocked down.
Smith however never wavered and continued to apply pressure. Smith landed a hard rising left hook in the third round that got the crowd on its feet. He continued to apply pressure and bang the body and land clean crisp left hooks on Perez in the fourth and fifth rounds. A head butt opened up a cut on Perez in the fifth round and he had blood streaming down his face. Smith clearly won the sixth round and he continued to land his left hook and had Perez moving backwards.
The ringside doctor was asked to examine Perez’s cut in the seventh round and he felt that it was too bad for the fight to continue. Since the cut was opened up by an accidental head butt the fight went to the scorecards. The judges scored it 67-65 for Perez, 66-66, and 66-66- making the fight a majority draw.
Perez did score the only knockdown of the fight, but Smith came on strong afterwards and was starting to dominate when the fight was stopped.