Undercard Fights at Manchester Arena Quigg vs Cayetano, Yafai vs Conception, Callum Smith, Buglioni, and Luis Ortiz
BY KID HERSH
First up on the day, aside from the extra extra early fight card from Auckland New Zealand, is the quick return to the ring of Luis "King Kong" Ortiz (26-0, 22KO's) vs David Allen (9-1-1, 6KO's) on the Manchester fight card. By all means he is looking to get back in the knockout category which is the expected outcome of this fight. I do not expect his opponent David Allen to go the distance, which he surprisingly did in his last outing against Dillian Whyte. Ortiz was teeing off on Allen but Allen came in shape and was extremely game.
After Ortiz we had Hosea Burton (18-0, 9KO's) vs Frank Buglioni (18-2-1, 14KO's). Buglioni started the fight off very fast, pressing Burton around the ring and pushing him against the ropes. It did not take long for Burton to snap out of his funk though and start firing combinations at Buglioni. Burton could not miss the easy target in front of him and he appeared to hurt Buglioni a couple of times but the tough man stuck in there through the round. Buglioni continued his frantic pace in the second round but Burton boxed his man instead of get into a war until a minute into the third round Buglioni nailed Burton with a left hook that seemed to change the tide of the fight. For the remainder of the round Buglioni was pursuing his man as Burton looked like he was buying time. Not from being seriously hurt but likely buzzed and in a bit of danger. He recouped between rounds however and in the fourth round Burton went right back to moving aroun d the ring and boxing Buglioni, who was super aggressive but not cutting off the ring effectively. Burton continued being the matador to Buglioni the bull and it wasn't until the sixth round that Buglioni got through again and seemed to have Burton back-peddling more than boxing. He carried the momentum into the seventh round but seemed to gas just enough to let Burton off the hook. It was Buglioni who was now closing the gap as the aggressor and throwing the harder and straighter shots but he was by no means dominating the action as Burton is just tricky enough to take the steam off Buglioni's shots with his footwork and length. Burton put together his best combination at the end of the ninth round, as he stung Buglioni and pushed him backwards. Buglioni, ever the game fighter, yelled and smiled to let Burton know he is not going anywhere but we all know that those punches hurt him. It was Burton that took over the rounds in the tenth and eleventh as he showed great defense and stamina in not letting Buglioni reach him with is punches or forward aggression anymore. Then in the eleventh round we had fireworks as Buglioni scored a knockdown near the end of the round. This completely changed the momentum of the fight as Burton finally looked gassed, seeming like he had had caught his second wind a couple rounds ago and now it was waning. In the twelfth round we had more extreme fireworks as Buglioni landed a flush, powerful right hand that Burton did not see coming. The shot dropped him on his rear and he rose but was clearly hurt as Buglioni pursued and took his man out in emphatic fashion in the last round. He likely needed a knockdown or perhaps even a knockout to win! This could be the fight of the year, really really good fight here that unfortunately lots of Americans will miss.
Next up was the lanky phenom Callum Smith (21-0, 16KO's) vs Luke Blackledge (22-2-2, 7KO's). In the first round "Mundo" showed his size and power advantage as he seemed to only be settling into a rhythm but could already do whatever he wanted to Blackledge. It was more of the same until in the third round the damage mounted when Smith was throwing combinations and dropped Blackledge with a combination that ended with a right hand. Blackledge rose and made it through the round by clinching but he was in bad shape. He showed that he is in great shape though, as he caught a second wind and did not go anywhere in the coming rounds. Smith was loading up on his shots and easily winning the rounds as he slowly busted up and broke down Blackledge, who clearly had no chance of winning. Smith appeared to be just a bit lost in the coming rounds I couldn't help but think, since he couldn't take his man out but now Blackledge was moving on him and having just enough upper body to make Smith miss more than hit unlike in the earlier rounds. The seventh round wore on and the damage was seriously mounting, looking like the stoppage had to be just on the horizon as the referee deducted a point for roughhousing on the inside but the fight wore on. In the eighth round, yet again, I thought for sure the stoppage was upon us as Smith poured on the damage and blasted Blackledge around the ring and scored a knockdown but yet again the tough dude made it to the end of the round with everyone wondering just when he was going to give or his corner or even the referee. I must say though, Blackledge's "Marvin Hagler training" that they talked about really is showing because he is in about as good of shape as a guy can get - especially considering he has been seriously outgunned and not able to do any damage on his opponent. He even seemed to come back to life a little bit as the ninth and tenth rounds rolled along but then suddenly with about thirty seconds left in the tenth round Smith landed a massive check left hook that snapped Blackledge's head violently and put him out cold. It was one of those knockouts that have you yelling "OOOOHHHHH" and then instantly hoping that the fighter is ok. Sith did not celebrate at all and the crowd was not cheering as he stayed on the canvas for quite a while with the doctors taking a serious look at him. Eventually he came to and was able to get helped onto a stool. This is definitely a scary moment in a knockout of the year candidate.
Next up was a very very good little matchup in Luis Concepcion (35-4, 24KO's) vs Khalid Yafai (20-0, 14KO's). Yafai had a good start as a measuring stick in this big step up fight for him. He burst out punches in spots as he normally does but overall he was measured and hitting the mark more than Concepcion. Concepcion was catching a lot of punches on his gloves but did not really get going in the first round. The second round was another good one for the challenger Yafai as he was patient and measured with his punches. He was finding a home for his right hand consistently and Yafai continued his domination over the coming rounds. Yafai was the ring general and just could not miss with his punches and he also surprisingly had better footwork going than the champion, as he smiled and bounced around the ring as if it was a walk in the park! In the fifth round Concepcion came out following Yafai around the ring and throwing 1-2's but he was reaching with them so even the ones that hit were only clipping the target. Yafai was in complete control and showed just that as he ended up pressing Concepcion into the ropes to end the round to show his dominance. In the sixth round it seemed like Concepcion was very frustrated and even lost a bit as he was near flailing with his punches and had his hands down at his sides at times in awkward way as if to say "what do I do with these?" Yafai started to bully Concepcion, which I actually expected from the start of the fight but he employed different dominating tactics in the first half and started to use his size and strength in the second half. The domination continued until in the eighth round Yafai started to stand and trade with Nica near the end of the round. Not sure if that is a good idea or not because he started to take more punches from the ex champ. He never appeared hurt or even wobbled but I thought it was an interesting show of gamesmanship to trade at this point in the fight where he has it all but won ad is going into deep territory where he has not been before with a dangerous opponent. In the tenth round Yafai scored a knockdown that Concepcion protested. It mattered not at this point since Yafai is winning every single round but it was just another thing to go wrong for Concepcion tonight. Yafai continued the beautiful boxing down the stretch in a virtuoso performance that nabbed a world champion for Britain in every single weight class. Incredible.
Next up we had Scott Quigg (31-1-2, 23KO's) making his debut at featherweight against Jose Cayetano (20-4, 9KO's). Quigg looked absolutely massive and it showed in the first round as he stepped forward and his punches showed the size difference. Quigg continued his hard pressure and power punching through the coming rounds. Cayetano showed that he is an extremely durable and cute fighter that can fight from either stance but he had nothing to offer to keep Quigg off of him and win the rounds. The damage was mounting as shown in the sixth round when Quigg was slamming home power punches. Some of which snapped Cayetano's head violently but he is like a human form of gumby because he never seems actually hurt. Quigg continued the amazingly hard aggression that he is known for and continued pressing his man heavily until he caught him with a right hand that put Cayetano down and out for the first time in his career. It was quite the statement win for Quigg, who did something that no one else has been able to do. Some would say that it was a higher weight class than normal for Cayetano, which is true, but the same can be said considering this was the first time Quigg has fought at the weight as well. He was a tank as usual though, showing that he will fit in at featherweight with no issues at all.