By: Sean Crose
Boxing returned to Showtime on Saturday night after a long, Covid-19 induced hibernation. The card, which aired live from Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino, featured Angelo Leo and Tramaine Williams battling for the WBO’s vacant Junior Featherweight title. The night started, however, with 10-1 light heavyweight Marcos Escudero facing Joseph George, 10-0, for the second time. The first fight between the two ended in a decision in favor of George that raised some eyebrows. Both men entered the ring in the eerily empty, Covid-19 era arena aiming to achieve a degree of clarity.
The fight ended up being a mostly close affair. Escudero was the aggressor, as he was in the first bout, and George employed a jab and cover up defense. It became clear rather quickly, however, that Escudero wasn’t only pushing the action, but dominating it. The pattern of the match was simply being controlled by the Argentine fighter. George appeared to have scored a flash knockdown in the eighth, but the referee ruled it a slip. A left uppercut, seemingly from out of nowhere, however, suddenly put Escudero down and out in the ninth. It was an incredible shot, one that made it clear that in boxing, the tide can change in less than a second.
Next up was another rematch. Marcus Bates was bested by Raeese Aleem via unanimous decision back in 2018. Looking to avenge his only loss, the 11-1-1 Bates slipped between the ropes to face the now 16-0 Aleem for the second time. The scheduled 12 rounder was a WBA title eliminator. Aleem was aggressive early, firing missiles at his old foe. As the rounds progressed it was obvious that Aleem was comfortable firing with accuracy. By the scheduled halfway point of the bout, the match had established itself as a one sided affair, with Aleem basically employing target practice. With a hurt hand, which had caused him to perform less than optimally, Bates turned his back during the tenth round, and was nailed in the face by Aleeem. The referee did the only thing he could, which was stop the bout.
It was time for the scheduled 12 round main event. Both fighters entered the ring with identical 19-0 records. Leo’s previous fight was in December. Williams hadn’t fought in over a year. The first saw good counter punching from the southpaw Williams. By the end of the second it was clear that Williams was dominating the early portion of the fight. The New Haven native may not have had a live hometown Connecticut crowd cheering him on at the Mohegan Sun, but he had still firmly established control early on. Leo wasn’t to be denied, however. The Vegas based fighter began to land – especially to the body – so that by fifth round, the match was a close affair. A low blow from Leo caused the fight to temporarily be halted in the sixth.
By the eighth, Leo’s body work over the previous few rounds appeared to be paying off. The bout was again briefly stopped in the ninth, this time due to a William’s low blow. As the fight entered the championship rounds, Leo appeared to be on the verge of a title win by virtue of a prolonged aggressive attack. Needless to say, Leo spent the remainder of the fight swinging away, earning himself the WBO Junior Featherweight title via unanimous decision as a result.