Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ Results: Ancajas Receives Disputed Draw, Uzcategui Decisions Maderna
By: William Holmes
Top Rank put on a fight card live from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on the ESPN+ streaming service.
The undercard featured several prospects and contenders, including Genesis Servania, Askhat Ualikhanov, Janibek Alimkhanuly, and Joshua Greer Jr.
The opening bout of the main card was between Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1) and Alejandro Santiago (16-2-4) for the IBF Junior Bantamweight Title. Ancajas looks at Manny Pacquiao as a mentor and is the longest reigning current champion in the junior bantamweight division.
Ancajas, a southpaw, was the taller fighter of the two and had moderate success with the jab in the opening round, and was pressing the action in the opening half of the second, but a right uppercut to the chin by Santiago in the second led to a fierce round ending exchange.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Twitter Account
The action picked up in the third and fourth rounds, with Santiago often getting the better of their exchanges. Santiago landed a blistering right hand in the fourth round that was the best punch of the fight to this point.
Santiago landed several hard shots in the fifth round but Ancajas may have stolen the sixth and seventh rounds with a consistent and accurate jab, but none of his shots appeared to hurt Santiago.
In the eighth round compubox stats showed that Ancajas had landed more power shots, but Santiago’s had a more noticeable effect on his opponent. Santiago’s overhand right found it’s home several times in the ninth round, and even though he was tagged more often in the tenth, he still appeared to be landing the more damaging shots.
The final two rounds were close, with the straight left of Ancajas finding its home in the eleventh and Santiago doing better damage in close in the final round, but could have rationally been scored for either fight.
The final scores were 116-112 Ancajas, 118-111 Santiago, and 114-114 for a draw. The scores were met with a chorus of boos from the crowd.
The main event was between Jose Uzcategui (27-2) and Ezequiel Maderna (26-4) in the super middleweight division.
Uzcategui looked like the stronger fighter early on and had Maderna fighting of of his back food. Maderna was able to land his check left hook early on, but Uzcategui was clearly landing the harder punches.
Uzcategui was walking throw the shots of Maderna in the second and third round while landing heavy blows to the head and chin. In the middle of the third round he had a 31-11 edge in power shots.
Uzcategui pressed the action in the fourth and fifth rounds, and didn’t appear to be worried about the power of Maderna at all as he at times switched to a southpaw stance.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Twitter Account
Uzcategui had clear control in the sixth and seventh rounds, but was met with some derision from the fans when the fighters tied up instead of willingly exchange. Maderna, to his credit, was taking some heavy shots form Uzcategui but was still fighting back.
Uzcategui appeared to step off the gas pedal in the eighth and coasted through the round, but he picked up his aggression in the final two rounds, landing heavy shots at will from all angles, but Maderna was able to stay standing and survive.
The final scores were 98-92, 100-90, and 100-90 for Jose Uzcategui.
Thrills And Skills On Display As Yafai and Ancajas Win
By: Sean Crose
Fresno State in California offered some boxing from the 115 pound realm on Saturday. The 29-1-1 Jerwin Ancajas battled the 14-3 Jonas Sultan for the IBF word super flyweight title. On the undercard, the 23-0 Khalid Yafai faced off against the 21-5-5 David Carmona for Yafai’s WBA super flyweight title. The fights were aired live on ESPN+, ESPNs new streaming platform from which the network hopes will spawn big things.
The night opened with Yafai and Carmona. Before the bout, Carmona had expressed his waning interest in the sport of boxing to the ESPN team. Still, the man fought his heart out in what proved to be an exciting affair. Yafai dropped his man in the first, but Carmona got off the mat and actually seemed to hurt the champion himself before the bell rang to end the round.
Yafai resumed control, but Carmona simply was not going to allow the Englishman to have an easy night’s work. After being dropped again in the fourth and once more in the fifth, it was obvious that Yafai was the dominant fighter. Carmona kept things exciting, though, and at no point in the bout did it seem like Yafai was blithely walking away with things. Ultimately, Carmona’s corner stopped the bout in between the seventh and eight rounds, apparently convinced that their man had simply had enough. There was no mistaking, though, that Carmona had made a good showing of himself throughout the fight.
It was time for the main event. This match, for the IBF strap, was between two Filipinos who entered the ring looking and acting more like gentlemen than they did contemporary showboating athletes. Ancajas, the champion, was entering the fight with the reputation of being the more polished fighter of the two, while the challenger Sultan was known to be aggressive and entertaining. Both men lived up to their reputations. The crowd may have booed at times for the match not being a slugfest, but discerning fans saw a lot to appreciate in the skill set of Ancajas, who worked an effective jab and kept his distance throughout the fight.
Sultan had certainly come to win and he did, in fact, have his moments. Those moments were too few and far between, however, and Ancajas walked away with a one sided decision victory. The fact that Ancajas was able to dominate as he did was a credit to the man’s craftsmanship. The defending champion simply never allowed Sultan to get into the match with any kind of regularity.
Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ Preview: Ancajas vs. Sultan, Yafai vs. Carmona
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the first All Filipino World Title Fight in nearly one hundred years will take place as Jerwin Ancajas battles Jonas Sultan for the IBF Junior Bantamweight Title. The last all Filipino title fight was in 1925 when Pancho Villa defended his title against Clever Sencio. The WBA Junior bantamweight Title will also be on the line as Khalid Yafai defends his title against David Carmona.
This fight card will be part of Top Rank’s deal with ESPN to broadcast fights on ESPN’s new ESPN+ streaming service. The Save Mart Center in Fresno, California will be the host site for Saturday’s fights.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
The following is a preview of both world title fights.
Khalid Yafai (23-0) vs. David Carmona (21-5-5); WBA Junior Bantamweight Title
Khalid Yafai is a British Champion that is starting to make a name for himself. He won the WBA title in 2016 against Luis Concepcion and has held it ever since.
He has never tasted defeat and has fourteen knockouts on his resume. He’s the same size as Carmona, but is considerably more experienced and successful both as a professional and as an amateur.
Yafai had a very successful amateur career and represented the United Kingdom in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Carmona has no such successful amateur background.
Carmona fought once in 2018, twice in 2017, and once in 2016. Yafai has fought twice in 2017 and four times in 2016.
Carmona’s biggest win of his career was against Antonio Garcia. He has lost almost every time he has stepped up to face good competition. He has losses to Daniel Lozano, Carlos Cuadras, Naoya Inoue, Omar Narvaez, and Fernado Curiel.
Yafai has defeated the likes of Sho Ishida, Suguru Muranaka, and Jason Cunningham.
On paper this fight looks like a mismatch, and in the ring it will probably look like one. The winner of this bout may face the winner of the main event.
Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1) vs. Jonas Sultan (14-3); IBF Junior Bantamweight Title
Jerwin Ancajas is a twenty six year old southpaw Filipino Champion. He’ll be facing a Filipino contender in Jonas Sultan, who is also twenty six years old but fights out of an orthodox stance. Ancajas will have about a two inch height advantage.
Ancajas has fought once in 2018, three times in 2017, and once in 2016. Three of his past four fights were KO/TKO wins and he has twenty stoppages during his career.
Sultan is currently riding a five fight win streak with four of those five fights coming by KO/TKO. He fought twice in 2017 and three times in 2016 with nine stoppages during his career.
Ancajas lone loss was to Mark Anthony Gerlado early on in his career in 2012. He has won every fight since then and has defeated the likes of Israel Gonzalez, Jamie Conaln, Teiru Kinoshita, Jose Rodriguez, and McJoe Arroyo.
Sultan does not have the professional resume of Ancajas. He has losses to Go Onaga, Jonathan Francisco, and Rolando Servania. He has had some recent success including victories over John Riel Casimero, Sonny Boy Jaro, Mazakole Tete, and Tatsuya Ikemizu.
Ancajas also has the edge in amateur experience. He allegedly has an amateur record of 90-5 while Sultan has an amateur record of 8-4.
Ancajas has traveled all over the world to fight. He has fought in the United States, Northern Ireland, Australia, Macao, the Philippines and China. Sultan has fought in nations such as South Africa, the Philippines, and Japan. This will be Sultan’s first fight in the United States.
Ancajas has the apparent edge in all the tangible comparisons with Sultan. He’ll likely shine on Saturday night with a bigger name opponent in the near future.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Ramirez, Acosta, Cotto, Ranallo, Ancajas, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of April 25th to May 2nd; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Gilberto Ramirez to Defend Super Middleweight Title in Oklahoma City
The Sooner State will welcome home its favorite fighting son and one of boxing’s elite champions for a special edition of Top Rank on ESPN Saturday, June 30 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez will make the fourth defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight title against the hard-hitting Roamer Alexis Angulo, while Oklahoma City’s Alex ‘El Cholo’ Saucedo continues his march to a 140-pound title shot against Lenny Zappavigna in a 10-round special attraction.
This world class doubleheader will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 9 p.m. ET.
Promoted by Top Rank, tickets to this world championship extravaganza will go on sale Friday, May 4 at 10 a.m. CST. Priced at $200, $100, $60, $40 and $25, not including facility and service fees, tickets may be purchased at the Chesapeake Energy Arena box office, online at Ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone at 1-800-745-3000.
“We are looking forward to a great event in Oklahoma City. Zurdo Ramirez is always in great fights, and Angulo will give him a real battle,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, founder and CEO of Top Rank. “It’s also with great pride that we were able to put in Oklahoma City native Alex Saucedo against a world class fighter like Lenny Zappavigna.”
“I want to prove that I’m the best fighter in the division. I’m willing to leave everything in the ring to defend my title,” Ramirez said. “I want to dedicate this fight to all the Mexicans and all the Latinos who reside in Oklahoma, I would like many of them to be present in the arena. That would motivate me even more. I’ll be waiting for you guys on June 30.”
“It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I am thankful to be fighting at home on ESPN. I’m going to train really hard, so I can put on a great show for my city,” Saucedo said. “It’s a dream come true to fight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. I’m ready for the moment. I know what kind of style I bring. I’m going to put on an incredible show and get Lenny out of there.”
Ramirez (37-0, 25 KOs), from Mazatlán, Mexico, became the first Mexican-born super middleweight champion when he shut out three-time world champion Arthur Abraham on April 9, 2016. He was sidelined with a hand injury and didn’t make his first defense for more than a year but didn’t miss a beat in winning a shutout unanimous decision over Max Bursak. Ramirez closed out 2017 with a nip-and-tuck battle against No. 1 contender Jesse ‘Hollywood’ Hart, ultimately prevailing by unanimous decision. In his last bout, on Feb. 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Ramirez scored the first stoppage of his championship reign with a sixth-round TKO over Habib Ahmed.
Angulo (23-0, 20 KOs), from Bogota, Colombia, has won his last five bouts by knockout, most recently winning the WBO Latino belt with a first-round knockout over Evert Bravo. He has a well-worn passport, having gone on the road to win bouts in Turkey, Mexico, Germany, United States, and Dominican Republic.
Saucedo (27-0, 17 KOs) was born in Meoqui, Mexico, but his family moved to Oklahoma City when he was 7 years old. An accomplished amateur who won more than 150 bouts in the unpaid ranks, Saucedo turned pro in 2011 and served as a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao. Saucedo, ranked No. 3 by the WBO at 140 pounds, last fought March 10 in Carson, Calif., against Abner Lopez, knocking Lopez out in the seventh round with a left hook to the body. Against Zappavigna, Saucedo will be fighting in Oklahoma City for the first time since 2014. Saucedo is also fighting for his place in Oklahoma City boxing history. He is seeking to become only the second Oklahoma City product to win a world title. Sean O’Grady captured the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight title on April 12, 1981 with a unanimous decision over Hilmer Kenty in Atlantic City, N.J.
Zappavigna (37-3, 27 KOs) is a 12-year pro and a longtime contender at both 135 and 140 pounds. He challenged Miguel Vazquez for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) lightweight title on March 12, 2011 in Las Vegas, dropping a unanimous decision. Following a knockout loss to Amneth Diaz later that year, Zappavigna moved up in weight, winning 10 consecutive bouts before engaging in a bloody slugfest against then-unbeaten Sergey Lipinets on Dec. 10, 2016. Lipinets prevailed via eighth-round TKO and would go on to win the IBF junior welterweight title two bouts later. Zappavigna has won two straight fights since the Lipinets defeat.
Acosta to Make 1st Title Defense Against BuitragoShowtime Documentary on Mauro Ranallo to Premier May 25th
Prolific combat sports broadcaster Mauro Ranallo and his lifelong battle with mental illness are the subject of a new documentary film from SHOWTIME Sports®. BIPOLAR ROCK ‘N ROLLER – named for the moniker Ranallo gave himself as a broadcast personality and DJ in the early 90’s – will premiere on SHOWTIME during Mental Health Awareness Month on Friday, May 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
First look video: https://s.sho.com/2Ft4Mig
Ranallo has Bipolar Affective Disorder, a condition afflicting nearly five percent of the U.S. population according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org). As a national sportscaster for preeminent boxing, mixed martial arts and WWE events, Ranallo has long been an advocate for ending the stigma of mental illness. Now, for the first time, he exposes the true extent of his daily struggle. Through extensive behind-the-scenes video footage, candid personal interviews and detailed accounts from his loved ones and doctors, BIPOLAR ROCK ‘N ROLLER takes an unflinching look at mental illness and its effects.
The film explores Ranallo’s career, including his work on the two biggest pay-per-view events in television history, and his relentless pursuit of a childhood dream despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Through this deeply personal portrait, Ranallo hopes that the film might inspire others to persevere in pursuing their dreams despite the challenges of a mental health condition.
“I have always tried to do my part to bring awareness to mental health issues,” said Ranallo. “Over the last several years, I allowed my best friend, Haris (Usanovic), to film me at my lowest points as well as at my highest. The idea is simply to show others who suffer that they are not alone and that, even when the outlook is bleak, you can overcome and achieve success. Mental illness is a life sentence—there is no cure—but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”
“Through BIPOLAR ROCK ‘N ROLLER, Mauro Ranallo has chosen to share not only his life’s dreams, but his nightmares as well,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports and Event Programming for Showtime Networks Inc. “Having reached the pinnacle of his profession, Mauro bravely turns his keen observational skills inward to examine his own life-long battle. The result is a raw, poignant and ultimately inspirational film that personifies Mauro’s courage and selflessness.”
Ranallo is a popular fixture on today’s combat sports scenes. In a career that has spanned more than 30 years, he has called everything from “All-Star Wrestling,” a Canadian professional wrestling outfit, to historic MMA events for PRIDE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS out of Japan, to WWE SmackDown Live on USA Network, to many of the biggest boxing events in the world for SHOWTIME Sports. Ranallo was the first broadcaster to call play-by-play on boxing, kickboxing, MMA and professional wrestling events on national television.
Today, Ranallo is the voice of three prominent nationally televised series: SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING®, WWE’s weekly show NXT on WWE Network, and BELLATOR MMA on Paramount Network. Perhaps best known for his dramatic, excitable style, Ranallo is a student of the English language. He has already made a lasting mark on the industry having called the two biggest pay-per-view events in television history: Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao (May 2015, international telecast); and Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor (Aug. 2017, SHOWTIME PPV®).
BIPOLAR ROCK ‘N ROLLER is produced by Brian Dailey, the network’s Vice President, Sports Digital Content and Strategy, and MALKA MEDIA GROUP. Directed by first-time filmmaker Haris Usanovic, the film is executive produced by Stephen Espinoza and SHOWTIME Sports.
Ancajas and Yafi to Defend World Titles on May 26th
Two of the world’s most dynamic 115-pound talents — on a collision course to a potential title unification bout — will take center stage at the Save Mart Center on the first Top Rank on ESPN world championship card on ESPN+, Saturday, May 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Filipino standout Jerwin ‘Pretty Boy’ Ancajas will defend the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior bantamweight world title in the main event against countryman Jonas Sultan. It marks the first world title bout featuring two Filipino fighters in 93 years, when Pancho Villa defended the world flyweight title against Clever Sencio on May 2, 1925.
In the co-feature, Great Britain’s Kal Yafai will make the third defense of his World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight title against David Carmona. Soon-to-be announced undercard bouts, including appearances by welterweight contender Jose Benavidez and Central Valley products Bryan Lua and Isidro Ochoa, will be shown on ESPN+ starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The Ancajas vs. Sultan / Yafai vs. Carmona world championship doubleheader will be streamed live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ — the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International group and ESPN. ESPN+ is available to all fans on the ESPN App and ESPN.com.
Fans can watch Ancajas vs. Sultan / Yafai vs. Carmona, hundreds of other boxing matches per year, other Top Rank on ESPN content and thousands of other live events by subscribing to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year). To subscribe, fans simply download or open the ESPN App or visit ESPNPlus.com and subscribe. Fans can stream on the ESPN App on mobile and TV-connected devices and on ESPN.com.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with MP Promotions, Big Al Presents, Joven Sports, and Matchroom Boxing USA, special ticket on-sale information will be announced soon.
“I am so glad and very grateful that I was given an opportunity to fight Jonas Sultan,” Ancajas said. “We are given a chance to display our talents on a world stage, two Filipinos fighting for a world title. This is history, and our names will be linked forever.”
“I can’t wait to make my U.S. debut. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I laced them up,” Yafai said. “This is the right time to do it. Everyone wants to fight in America at some stage in their career, and this is the right moment for me to announce myself in the States. I know people will talk about the Jerwin Ancajas fight, of course, but Carmona is the man in front of me, and he’s all I’m thinking about. I have to look good against Carmona, but I know that the Ancajas fight is something that can happen down the line in the States or in England.”
Ancajas (27-1-1,19 KOs), from Barangay Ramirez, Magallanes, Cavite, Philippines, will be making the fifth defense of the world title he won on Sept. 3, 2016 in Taguig City, Philippines, when he knocked down the previously undefeated McJoe Arroyo in the eighth round en route to a unanimous decision. Ancajas made his U.S. and Top Rank debut as the co-feature to the Gilberto Ramirez vs. Habib Ahmed bout on a Top Rank on ESPN card, Feb. 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas. On that night, Ancajas steamrolled Israel Gonzalez, knocking him down three times and scoring a 10th-round TKO.
One of the most devastating punchers in the lighter weight classes, Ancajas is 15-0 with 14 knockouts since his only loss, a 10-round majority decision to Mark Geraldo on March 17, 2012. He has defended his title in Australia, Northern Ireland, and Macao, a world traveler intent on staking his claim as the top fighter in the loaded 115-pound weight class.
Sultan (14-3, 9 KOs), ranked No. 1 by the IBF, is coming off the biggest victory of his career, when he knocked out former two-division champion John Riel Casimero on Sept. 16, 2017 in Cebu City, Philippines. He has won five in a row, four by knockout, since a 10-round unanimous decision loss to Go Onaga on Nov. 15, 2015. A native of Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, Sultan lost two split decisions in his first six pro fights. Like Ancajas, he has won several fights in his opponents’ home countries, including a 2016 second-round TKO over Makazole Tete in East London, South Africa.
Yafai (23-0, 14 KOs), from Birmingham, England, turned pro in 2012 following an accomplished amateur career, winning eight fights in his first eight months in the paid ranks. On March 21, 2014, he stopped Yaqub Kareem in the third round to win the vacant Commonwealth super flyweight title. Yafai won the British super flyweight title in March 2016 and soon set his sights on a world crown.
On Dec. 10, 2016, Yafai dominated Luis Concepcion via unanimous decision, winning the WBA belt and becoming Birmingham’s first world champion in 109 years. In his most recent title defense, Yafai turned back a tough challenge from Sho Ishida, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 118-110 and 116-112 (2x).
Carmona (21-5-5, 9 KOs), from Mexico City, will be making his third attempt at a world title at 115 pounds. In 2013, he fell to longtime WBO champion Omar Narvaez via seventh-round TKO. And, in 2016, he dropped a unanimous decision to pound-for-pound elite Naoya Inoue, who’d knocked out Narvaez to win the title. On March 10, 2017, he lost a disputed unanimous decision to former WBC super flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras. In his last bout, on March 2 of this year, he scored a fourth-round TKO over Jesus Iribe in Mexico City.
Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Results: Ancajas and Ramirez Impress with Stoppage Wins
By: William Holmes
The America Bank Center in Corpus Christie, Texas was the host site for tonight’s Top Rank Boxing on ESPN offering.
The undercard featured several of Top Rank’s prized prospects. Teofimo Lopez, Jesse Hart, and Jose Benavidez delivered victories as expected on showcase bouts on ESPN News.
The opening bout of the night was between Jerwin Ancajas (26-1-1) and Israel Gonzalez (20-1) for the IBF Junior bantamweight title.
Many have been comparing Ancajas to Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao. Tonight was the first fight on US soil for Ancajas.
Ancajas, a southpaw, was able to back Gonzalez up with his sharp jab in the first round and scored an early knockdown with looping overhand left. Gonzalez was able to get to his feet and survive the opening round.
Ancajas unveiled his check right hook in the second round and went on the attack more. Gonzalez was able to land a few good shots in the third round, but Ancajas aggressive style was eerily similar to Pacquiao and was effective.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter
Ancajas had doubled the number of punches landed by the fourth round and had Gonzalez stumbling in the fifth from a straight left hand.
Ancajas was steady and consistent in the sixth through eighth rounds, landing straight lefts almost at will and constantly testing the chin of Gonzalez.
Ancajas looked extremely comfortable in the ninth round and was landing almost at will. A straight right by Ancajas in the tenth round hurt Gonzalez which was followed by a straight left hand that sent him back to the mat.
He bounced on his feet for the referee when he rose before the count of ten, but Ancajas immediately followed that with a hard left hook that sent Gonzalez falling back down to the mat.
The referee immediately stopped the fight at 1:50 of the tenth round.
The main event of the night was between Gilberto Ramirez (36-0) and Habib Ahmed (25-0-1) for the WBO Super Middleweight Title.
Ramirez height advantage was glaring and Ramirez opened up with a good straight left hand. Ahmed was able to land a few shots of his own and looked like he game to exchange, but Ramirez was landing more combinations and heavy shots to the body.
Ahmed was short with most of his combinations in the second round and kept a tight guard for most of the round. Ramirez’s uppercuts were getting through.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter
Ramirez suffered a cut above his left eye n the third round from a headbutt. Ramirez had Ahmed worn out by the third round and looked badly hurt.
Ramirez was snapping the head of Ahmed in the third round and battered him from corner to corner. The domination continued into the fifth round as Ahmed was just running away looking to survive.
Ramirez continued to land hard and heavy shots while Ahmed threw nothing in return in the sixth round. The referee looked close to stopping the fight several times before Ahmed’s corner finally told the referee to stop the fight.
Gilberto Ramirez was dominant with a knockout victory at 2:31 of the sixth round.
Frampton, Tete, and Ancajas Win in Belfast
By: Oliver McManus
11,000 Irish fans packed into the SSE Arena, Belfast, for an enthralling night of World Championship boxing courtesy of Frank Warren – with Zolani Tete, Jamie Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Carl Frampton on the card it’s hard to tell who the main headlining act was but, boy , was it a brilliant night in Belfast.
The returning Jackal was in his first bout under MTK-management and in his new promotional agreement with Frank Warren and his homecoming featherweight (technically catchweight; 1lb above the featherweight limit) contest was against, Mexican, Horacio Garcia – a 33-3 fighter looking to cause a major upset.
Coming off the back of a majority-decision loss against Leo Santa Cruz (the rematch to their first bout that Frampton one), Frampton was hoping to get back into World Title contention with a convincing win over his 27 year old opponent whereas Violento was seeking to propel his name into the spotlight.
A two-weight World Champion, it’s in the balance as to whether Frampton continues in the featherweight division or jumps up to Super-Feather in an attempt to become Northern Ireland’s first ever three-weight world champion – first though, he’d need to get through Horacio Garcia.
There was a reception befitting royalty that greated Frampton to the ring for his 25th fight – his 24 previously yielding just the single loss – and both fighters entered the contest at 9st 1lb with Garcia possessing the 3inch reach advantage.
With 10 rounds scheduled The Jackal was looking to put to work the old adage that you don’t get paid for overtime and finish his opponent in emphatic fashion.
Taking to the centre of the ring Frampton, the shorter fighter, eased himself into the round before landing with a crouched left hook to signal his intent to both his opponent and the capacity crowd in the SSE Arena.
Starting off on the back foot – but without Garcia pressing anything of note – he appeared to be measuring out his opponent before swinging with quality shots round the guard of Garcia, slamming in the right hand to the cheek with split-second timing.
Fast, fleeting, footwork combined with lucid upper-body movement saw him evade the infrequent jabs coming his way, much to the delight of the crowd.
Packing a real crisp jab, The Jackal kept it popping into the body of Violento to distract from the overhand left that landed with alarming regularity to the Mexican’s head. Garcia failed to land anything without coming forward and, when he did, Frampton hit back by leaping onto the front foot and lading with sharp combinations to the inside body.
Looking confident yet not cocky, Frampton really was moving through the motions during the opening stanza of the bout with a high tempo forcing his 36-fight opponent into sloppy mistakes, slipping back onto the ropes and inviting the pressure from Frampton.
Opening up in the third by leaving his left hand hanging in front of Garcia’s face, the EU Amateur silver medallist, landed a cracking shot in the middle of the round to snap the neck back of his 27 year old opponent.
Despite all the artillery coming the Mexican’s way he seemed undeterred from staying true to his fighting style, keeping a high guard whilst occasionally dropping down to throw body shots at Frampton.
A durable fighter his three defeats have all been on points with one of them avenged a mere two months later and his 24 knockout victories out of 33 show that he’s not to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Wild, swinging, left hands started off his 4th round as Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez sat front row cheering his fellow national on and he landed his first shot of note about 45 seconds into the round with a firm right hook to the body, swiftly followed with further clubbing shots to head and body.
Frampton decided to stay and trade with his opponent, holding his feet in a style which probably favoured the Mexican but nonetheless the Jackal was determined to go toe-to-toe with his opponent.
Garcia landed with consistency and pushed the two-weight champion onto the ropes, firing in with slamming shots to both sides of the Irishman before the tables turned and Frampton shimmied his way back to the centre with a stylish flurry to the head, backing Garcia away.
Into the second half of the fight we went and it seemed to follow a similar script to the first with Frampton staying in control, working on that straight right followed by blindside left which was deployed to significant effect. Garcia would continue to fire back occasionally with a shot to remind the blue, white and gold wearing fighter of his presence but you’d be hard pushed to suggest he was troubling the pre-fight favorite.
A minor cut emerged to the side of Frampton’s right eye but nothing worthy of anything other than a brief mention and Garcia seemed to gain confidence from this, taking the sixth round with eye-catching flurries to the body before taking a ramrod right hook flush to the temple, shrugging it off.
The 7th round saw drama abound as The Jackal was floored in what was a blatant slip but Victor Loughlin counted it as a knockdown, getting up off the canvas he seemed bitter and enraged, throwing leather Garcia’s way with scant regard for the consequences. 10-8 for Garcia, presumably, the fight was in the balance.
For a fight of this nature to be overshadowed by a display of sub-par refereeing of this magnitude would be unjust and Frampton set out with a point to prove in the 8th, going back to basics but slipping in almost the exact same spot again. He stayed on his feet and stood square in front of the Mexican, landing solid right hands to the body of the granite Garcia.
The fatiguing face of Frampton painted a thousand words that preferably wouldn’t be uttered come the final bell but his work-rate and punch-quality was looking like enough to secure him victory in his first fight since January.
Frampton’s footwear saw him come unstuck for a third time in the fight, slipping again, but with only one of those slips counting as a knockdown it was a rectifiable issue; Garcia proved to be the aggressor in the final two rounds, throwing all sorts of shots at his opponent in order to get ahead on the judges’ scorecards.
Whilst The Jackal seemed to gas, he kept throwing back in what was proving to be a real knife-edge fight; the Irishman dominating the opening rounds with the Mexican coming on strongly in the final four, causing significant problems for the expected winner
Come the final bell there was a tangible sense of trepidation in the crowd as we went to the scorecards – 98-93, 97-93, 96-93 ; Carl Frampton beat Horacio Garcia in what has to be one of the greatest non-title fights you will ever see, guts, grit, glory, THE LOT.
Jamie Conlan, the pride of Belfast, featured in his 20th professional fight as he took on Jerwin Ancajas for the IBF World Super Flyweight title – coming in as the long-odds challenger, Conlan was confident in his game plan against the cagey Filipino champion.
Ancajas has the odd notoriety of being one of the most avoided champions in all of world boxing – despite the fact everyone wants his belt – and 13 knockouts out of his last 14 goes some way to demonstrating just why that is.
The 27-1 man looked to make his third defence of the IBF title he took off McJoe Arroyo back in September 2016 and, in The Mexican, he was facing quite possibly his most gung-ho fighter in the whole of his career.
Conlan was relishing this opportunity on the world stage and refused to let Ancajas’ reputation faze him during the build-up, insisting instead that the packed SSE Arena would be enough to see him over the line.
Fighting his first southpaw opponent in 5 years, the 31 year old seemed to struggle to adapt to the style of Pretty Boy and looked quite uncomfortable in the opening stages of the first round with Ancajas staying at length and prompting Conlan to open himself up if he wanted to land shots of any real meaning.
Unexpectedly after 90 seconds in the first round the Irishman shot down to the canvas with everyone in the arena bemused – no shots came in as he fell but as he got up it appeared to be something wrong with the lead leg.
The crowd voiced their support to create a spine-tingling atmosphere that carried Conlan to his corner – a 10-8 round certainly not the start they would have been hoping for.
Ancajas, wearing the red and white shorts, stuck to his deliberately cagey blueprint but failed to land any significant punches to trouble the maiden title challenger. Attempted roughhouse from the Filipino drew the ire of, referee, Steve Gray and caused a cut to the left-eye of The Mexican, prompting a stream of blood to gush to his eye.
The 6-time All-Ireland champion (junior and senior) doesn’t have quitting in his vocabulary, however, and mustered up the spirit to draw him his corner and attempt to bring himself back into the fight.
Patient, probing jabs provided little threat to Conlan but a straight right hand lead followed by a power left had the challenger rattled. A body shot sent him stumbling back but typical flamboyance saw him wave the attack on.
Body shot after body shot had him tucking up, curling into a ball almost. Three successive right hands to the body followed flush by a left to the livers dropped Jamie for the second time in the fight.
Momentum firmly in the defending champion’s corner, Pretty Boy know where to target and looked to exploit it as the fight entered the second third of the fight. Big right hands winded Conlan, the Filipino had him against the ropes and landed dozens of sharp, sustained punches to the body, inflicting maximum physical and psychological damage to the ever fatiguing Irishman.
Down in the last 15 seconds of the round as a result of yet more body shots, a fist punched the canvas in frustration at the quality of fighter he was facing – Ancajas proving to be a class above but Conlan giving it his all.
Finding spirit from no conceivable place, success was found with punches evading the guard of Ancajas but ultimately being nothing other than sighting shots as opposed to anything packing power.
A point was deducted from the champion in the fifth round as he floored the black-and-gold wearing Irishman thanks to a third low-blow of the fight, if anything was to be the point at which Conlan got back into the fight then surely this would be it.
Jabs aplenty found themselves rammed right down the throat of Conlan before he went down for a fourth time thanks to, in truth, a relatively nothing punch but when fatigue sets in, it’s a killer. Despite getting up and protesting the legality of the shot, the fight was ultimately waved off with the challenger looking dazed and distraught.
Although unlucky to be stopped by a punch which replays showed to be to the back of the head, he was exhausted and didn’t realistically look like winning the fight so perhaps it was a case of pulling him out before any major damage had been caused.
If bravery won you world titles then Conlan would have bags of them but, unfortunately for him, the fight went to Jerwin Ancajas owing to a 6th round knockout that took him to 28-1, stamping his mark as, arguably, the number one super-flyweight in the world.
Paddy Barnes’ defence of his WBO European title failed to materialize and instead the flyweight fighter fought Eliecer Quezada (21-6) from Nicaragua for the WBO Inter-Continental title.
Looking to his extend his record to 5-0, The Leprechaun knew he’d have to put in a better performance than the one he showed against Juan Hinostroza – a fight in which he admits he was less than impressive – if he were to get past the much underrated 26 year old in the opposing corner.
Scheduled for 10 rounds Quezada looked light on his feet despite being the heavier of the two fighters – weighing in 2.5lbs over the flyweight limit – bouncing around the ring with the first minute seeing very little in way of punches landed.
The taller, rangier fighter kept Barnes at bay for much of the first round with a constant switch from southpaw to orthodox stance but Quezada lay open to the faster hands, as opposed to feet, of his opponent who connected with successive flurries of jabs to the body.
Just as the bell came in to signal the end of the first round a clash of heads between the boxers left the Nicaraguan biting the inside of his mouth and holding his mouth guard but, other than that, no damage caused.
A somewhat stop-start round followed with Barnes attempting to suss out the experienced man opposite him but keeping busy with adept footwork before rocking Quezada with a good right hand; the legs wobbled and The Leprechaun pounced on the opportunity to land hard with speed and accuracy to fatigue the former WBA Fedecentro Light Flyweight champion.
In the final 15 seconds of the round, a short chopping right hand came cascading into the cheek of Quezada as Barnes recorded his first professional knockdown, the fighter made the count rather laboriously but started the next round looking groggy.
And the Irish Olympic and Commonwealth medallist showed his full range of capabilities as he stood in the middle of the ring trading with his man, reigning shots in with a degree of controlled recklessness; unsteady legs set in for Quezada in the concluding 30 seconds of round three but despite this landed a successful right hand of his own that kept Barnes in check.
Square feet and punching fresh air sapped the energy out of the travelling fighter as the Belfast man maintained his patience in waiting for a natural opening as opposed to forcing the cause. Both fighters took a relative breather in the fourth round but it was Barnes who maintained in control of the bout before unleashing some passionate punches towards the backend.
A performance that appeared exponentially more mature than any we’d previously seen, this fifth professional fight seemed to be an opportunity to showcase his skills for a potential world title challenge but in the middle round he was given his last warning for a low-blow, although a minor infringement it must be said.
Following that the Nicaraguan connected with his best shots of the fight, leaning in with his whole body and jumping into some shots with real venom – a good spell of sustained pressure saw Quezada land with headshots and garner a foothold in the fight, was momentum shifting in his favour?
A rallying Quezada managed to survive a furious onslaught of punches from his opponent four years older than him but the agony on his face was plain to see as Barnes managed to regain his composure and landed a sensational left hook cracking the ribs of the Nicaraguan.
Sinking to the canvas in a manner more like he’d been shot by a sniper, the writing was on the wall as he hit the floor for the second time in the fight. Set up by a left hook to the head, the quick change down to the body proved to be the end of the fight as, referee, Steve Grey counted out The Huricane in the 6th round as Paddy Barnes recorded his first ever knockout from his 5-0 record.
An ever burgeoning army of fans, the WBO Inter-Continental Flyweight title and a Top 10 ranking for The Leprechaun, it’s fair to say the future is looking pretty bright for this amateur-turned-pro sensation.
In the other World Title bout on the show, Zolani Tete was defending his WBO Bantamweight title against Siboniso Gonya and during the build-up had vowed to give his fellow South African a maximum of four rounds before knocking him out.
At 25-3, the two-weight World Champion went into the ring, on the back of a Unanimous Decision win against Arthur Villanueva, at 8st 5.5lbs whilst the challenger, who’s last win was against Immanuel Naidjala, was slightly lighter weighing in at 8st 4lbs.
On paper Tete was the heavy favourite, possessing the greater knockout power with 20 of 25 victories finishing early as well as a 3inch reach advantage to help dictate the pace of the bout.
Looking for a unification scrap with Ryan Burnett, Tete wasted no time in storming out of the blocks, leaping into the centre of the canvas. Gonya had no time to settle himself into any sort of game plan and Tete landed a flush right hook around he guard to the chin of the challenger on the six second mark.
Down went Gonya in what initially looked like a flash knockdown and, indeed, Phil Edwards began the count before the sudden realisation that the, previously, 11-1 fighter was out cold upon impact; the fight was waved off and concern grew as to the welfare of the KwaZulu-Natal resident who laid motionless for about 40 seconds.
Having displayed such explosive, raw, ability in the short 11 seconds that this fight lived it’s clear to see why Tete remains such an avoided boxer with very few men willing to get into the ring with such a risky fighter who can turn it on in an instant.
Subject to confirmation, the one-fight punch goes down in history as the shortest (in terms of time) World title fight of all time and Zolani Last Born Tete moved to 26-3 before remaining humble in his post-fight interview, even in his call-out of Burnett, as he sets up a potential Bantamweight unification showdown in 2018.
An honourable mention for Jono Carroll who was given a late setback when Declan Geraghty pulled out of their rematch and, instead, he fought (15-4) Humberto de Santiago for the IBF Inter-Continental Super Featherweight title.
Keeping the pressure high from the beginning it was an absolute brawl from Carroll who was twice warned for low blows but went for the kill as soon as the first bell went and a gritty, gutsy, display earned himself only his second ever professional knockout victory to move to 15-0 courtesy of a 3rd round stoppage.
Also on the card former ABA Champion Alex Dickinson looked lacklustre as he advanced to 3-0 in the heavyweight division thanks to an scrappy points decision against, a journeyman who came to trade, Milen Paunov to make it 3 knockouts from 3 fights; Marco McCullogh beat Josh Baillie (5-3) in his first fight since losing in a British title fight against Ryan Walsh as the featherweight made it 18 and 4; and cruiserweight up-and-comer Tommy McCarthy successfully broke down Blaise Mendouo over 6 rounds to improve his record to 11-1.
A brilliant Belfast barnstormer filled with pure boxing beauty saw 11,000 Irish fans singing loud and proud at the return of an Irish hero, the birth of another and one brave brother who gave it all but came up just short.
Conlan will come back stronger though, don’t doubt that and Ireland is THE place to watch going into 2018 – Frampton, Barnes, both Conlan’s and, of course, the potential for a unification between Zolani Tete and Ryan Burnett.
No-one does it better than the Irish, why did we ever doubt it?