By: William Holmes
The increasingly popular NBC Sports Network Fight Night series returned to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the Sands Casino, as Main Events Promotions and Peltz Boxing Promotions put on tonight’s event featuring three fast-rising contenders on national television.
The first bout of the night was between Alex Sanchez (1-1) and Fitzgerald Johnson (3-6) in the junior middleweight division. Sanchez made quick work of the overmatched Johnson and won with a quick second round knockout at 2:14.
The second bout of the night was between Jerome Rodriguez (0-1) and Kywayne Hill (1-9) in the junior welterweight division. Rodriguez looked impressive in this fight and used effective body work to keep Hill on the defensive. Rodriguez won with a clean sweep on the judges’ scorecards by scores of 40-36.
The third bout on the undercard was between Pedro Martinez (6-6) and William Miranda (5-5-1) in the heavyweight division. If you like to watch masterful technique and defense when watching a fight, this was one to skip. But if you like to watch two fighters leave it all in the ring and show incredible heart, this would have been your type of fight.
Miranda landed an early knockdown with a stiff double jab that sent Martinez to the floor in the first round, and the remaining five rounds featured close exchanges with both fighters giving it all they had. Miranda was bleeding badly above his right eye from the fourth round on, but was able to survive and score the victory. The final scores were 59-54, 59-55, and 58-55 for William Miranda.
The last untelevised fight was between Jason Sosa (4-1-3) and Esteban Rodriguez (5-2-1) in the junior lightweight division. Due to time constraints this bout was switched from a six rounds to four rounds, but the fight was close and exciting enough to deserve six rounds. Sosa had a strong first and last round when he really let his hands go and let his superior speed take over. Rodriguez had a strong second and third round with an effective body attack and constant pressure. In the end the judges scored it 38-38, 39-37, and 39-37 for Jason Sosa.
The first televised bout of the night was between hometown favorite Ronald Cruz (17-0) and Antwone Smith (21-4-1) in the welterweight division. The crowd of course loudly cheered their hometown hero and heavily booed his opponent.
Smith took control of the fight early on with an effective jab. Cruz was unable to get past it and unable to solve the shoulder roll defense of Smith. A hard overhand right at the end of third round by Cruz sent Smith back to his corner on shaky legs, but he came back out in the fourth round and stayed behind his jab. Cruz simply did not throw enough punches and by the eighth round switched to a southpaw stance, perhaps out of desperation. Switching to a southpaw stance allowed Cruz to land more punches, but it also opened him up to more punches from Smith.
The scores were 96-94 Smith, 96-94 Cruz, and 96-94 for Smith. The crowd loudly booed the decision, but it was the correct score. Cruz was simply not active enough to earn a decision victory.
The next bout of the night was between the undefeated Russian Sergey Kovalev (18-0-1) and Lionell Thompson (12-1) in the light heavyweight division.
Kovalev was absolutely dominant, and landed several hard jabs and straight right hands in the first round that put the look of fear into the eyes of Thompson as he went back to his corner. A vicious straight right hand in the second round sent Thompson crashing to the mat hard. Thompson was able to get back to his feet, but he ate another hard straight right hand that forced a standing eight count as the second round ended.
Insanity ensued in Thompson’s corner as his manager felt that last knockdown came after the round ended and he jumped into the ring to complain. Thompson’s girlfriend ran to his corner and implored them to stop the fight, but Thompson came out for the third round. Thompson’s corner should have listened to his girlfriend. Kovalev landed a clean two-punch combination that sent Thompson crashing to the mat again and the referee mercifully waved off the bout.
Kovalev, who made a loud statement tonight and looks like a force to be reckoned with in the light heavyweight division, wins by KO at 0:14 of the third round.
The main event of the night was an IBF Junior Middleweight Eliminator between two hard surging veterans, Gabriel Rosado (20-5) and Charles Whittaker (36-12-2).
The contrast in styles was obvious from the beginning, as Whitaker came out to a serenade that sounded straight from the 1950s, and Rosado walked out to DMX blasting on the speakers.
The older Whittaker came out using his jab and staying on the outside. Rosado stayed coiled like a snake waiting to strike, and strike he did. He landed a beautiful straight right hand in the fifth round that sent Whittaker to the ground. Whittaker got back up and landed several hard shots that left Rosado walking back to his corner a little wobbly.
Rosado knocked Whittaker down again in the seventh round with another straight right hand, and this time Whittaker fell to the mat face first. To his credit, Whittaker didn’t quit and continued to make it a fight and landed punches of his own.
The end finally came in the 10th round. Rosado knocked Whittaker down with what appeared to be an uppercut, but Whittaker somehow was able to rise to his feet again. Rosado jumped on Whittaker again and pummeled him with a combination in the corner that sent Whittaker to the floor again, and this time the referee stopped the punishment.
Gabriel Rosado continues his hot streak with a TKO victory at 1:50 of the tenth round.