Andrzej Fonfara vs Joe Smith Jr, Rau'Shee Warren vs Payano II, Erickson Lubin vs Sandoval & undercard
BY KID HERSH
Chicago had the buzz of a fight town the second I got off the plane. A ride to the venue on the blue line immediately sparked boxing conversations with people talking about big fights as well as on the streets at the UIC campus. Whether you love or hate the Haymon cards boxing is spreading and it is a great thing to bring more fans to the sport.
First up on the card was Jessica McCaskill (1-0, 1ko) vs Katonya Fisher (debut). I missed the majority of the fight due to boxing talk in the streets but when I came in it was the final round and they both were fighting their asses off. McCaskill won the unanimous decision.
Josh Hernandez (2-0, 2ko's) vs Eric Gotay (3-3, 1ko) was up next. Hernandez had more fans but Gotay had the rabid ones screaming bloody murder in an effort to pump their man up. Hernandez was telegraphing his jabs by opening his mouth and tensing his shoulders straight from the opening bell but it mattered not. A minute into the round he unleashed a right hand that blasted Gotay flush and put him out. No need to count but the referee did while Gotay was gulping for air like a fish out of water.
Jose Felix Quezada (10-0, 6ko's) vs Cameron Krael (8-10-2, 1ko) Was up next. In the first round Quezada was not committing to his punches to start. He looked tight while Krael looked loose. As soon as Quezada had his man figured after jabbing to the body he started landing right hands that Krael did not react well to. Quezada really started pouring it on in the second round in a fast-fought and brutal round. He was opening up Krael with a vast array of shots both to the body and the head. Krael, to his credit, was fighting back hard but much worse for wear out of the two men as he got nailed with uppercuts and hooks and straights of all kinds. Quezada was even sneaking them around his tight full guard. Krael only managed to back him off with an excellent left hook to the body near the end of the round with only 15-20 seconds left. The third round was more of the same with Krael really finding a home for the left hook to the body that slowed Quezada just enough to keep him off at times. Krael was getting broken down but to his credit he is really trying hard and came to fight. The fourth round was fought mostly in the center of the ring at close quarters. Quezada slowed quite a bit - likely from all the body work Krael is putting in - which is exactly what he did more of and may have just edged the round out on my card. Krael, shockingly, let off the gas in the fifth round of only a sixth round fight right after he worked his way into the fight in the fourth. He got on his wheels a bit looking to box his man but he was not active enough as Quezada simply followed him around the ring and exploded with occasional combinations when he had his man on the ropes. Most of the punches were ineffective and I feel like Quezada is a bit faded in energy - especially compared to his hard head snapping shots in the first Half of the fight. In the sixth and final round both men left it all in the ring, with Quezada finishing a bit stronger than you might expect from the previous two rounds being far less effective for him than the first three. Likely because the target was back in front of him again. Krael showed great toughness in this fight as I surely thought he was going to be stopped after being walked down, hurt, and broken down round by round until the fourth round turnaround. The cards came in a MD for Quezada - very surprising to me since Krael fought his ass off but really only took one round clearly, then changed tactics and backed off the gas immediately after that success. Great learning fight for Quezada, and Krael is a much better fighter than his record indicates. Quezada is a great hometown talent to watch - just needs to protect that body! It was a great fight to kick off the card that commentator Ray Flores was even on his feet for at the finish.
Ramiro Carrillo (10-0, 7ko's) vs Jorge Luis Munguia (12-5, 4ko's) was next. Carrillo is absolutely huge compared to Munguia as the fight looks like a bloated featherweight vs a big welterweight. Carrillo controlled the first round with solid boxing skills as he first let Munguia come to him - which didn't last too long because he got popped walking in far too open with power shots. Then Carrillo started to walk his man down and set up good shots by leading with jabs and following with rights. He showed good head movement as well. In the second round Munguia was getting reckless to show his cojones and surprisingly he was not getting blasted too bad for it. He seems to be sure he can take Carrillo's power, and thus far he has. Carrillo is having trouble hitting flush - almost like the low target is hard for him to hit with the leverage and angle he prefers - as he tries repeatedly to open him up with jabs and uppercuts. Munguia surprisingly worked his way back into the fight a bit over the next couple rounds - especially in the fourth when he was extremely reckless with dropping his hands and rushing inside with no guard and no punch but Carrilllo looks very tired with no steam on his punches anymore. He was scoring, but not doing damage until late in the fourth when he had Munguia hurt with a vast array of shots but the tough Honduran sure came to fight and battled back with great heart to show. Munguia then turned to a type of Sam Solimon style of fighting - which I have only seen by Sam Solimon himself - as he jumped in and out and around awkwardly with his hands down and very frequently in front of his man but either was not getting hit or managed to parry the majority of blows, being slick enough to roll with the shots or slippery enough to not take the full damage. It's an odd style that is somehow effective in a sense that this guy should by all means be taken out easily and put on his rear by the far more skilled and larger fighter but he is an enigma at the same time with a drunken master style of "boxing". Good learning fight for Carillo who won the shutout and is no doubt very annoyed at the same time.
Rau'shee Warren (22-1, 4ko's) vs Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8ko's) II was first up on the telecast. In the first round it was all Warren as he got off to a hot start. He was controlled at times and very tight and anxious at others. Payano simply bided his time and didn't do much throwing until the end of the round - no doubt having the game plan that he wants take Warren late like in the first fight. In the second round it was more of the same with Warren head-hunting instead of investing a body that looked wide open but at this point it doesn't matter because he is really blunting Payano's work rate with his speed and movement in and out. Payano was trying to get the engine warmer in the third round and while there isn't a whole lot separating them it has a feel that Warren could be sweeping the rounds thus far (edging them out). He could be more dominant with a higher work rate but he is slightly tentative to throw as Payano is waiting to catch him. Early in the fourth Warren caught him with a left hand that he walked into and it hurt him- he pursued but wisely backed off as Payano recovered quickly. Series of left hands to end the fourth round by Warren to seal the round. The fifth round did not have a lot of action until late when Payano turned up the heat - first taking power shots but then giving them to end the round due to Warren not getting back out of the pocket - which is exactly where he does not want to linger with his short arms. Payano finally had a consistent round in the sixth by keeping steady pressure on Warren and showing good defense in making Warren miss many of his shots. Warren was successful in small sporadic spurts only as he looked a tad slower with his speed - with the pressure wearing on him a bit like in the first fight. Tough to score rounds ensued, with the seventh being similar to others in terms of picking between Warren's flashy speed and quick shots out of nowhere sporadically or the slow but steady pressure of Payano - who really wasn't throwing much or cutting off the ring effectively but yet catching his man when Warren would stay in range for too long. Warren looked tired throughout the eighth round, looking like he was focusing more on keeping his distance than being offensively effective. Warren was standing right where he did not want to in the ninth round - being egged on by his corner and supporters to press his man but more importantly stay in range - which I completely disagree with. Every time Warren stays in range is when Payano gets off first and hits Warren flush. When Warren gets off and moves is when he is far more effective - which is the shift in the fight that happened midway through when Warren started to stay in the pocket with seemingly no plan. Warren had a huge eleventh round early on when he had Payano stunned and trapped him in the corner, unleashing powerful combinations that were effective albeit a bit wild - being the first to draw blood as he bloodied Payano's right eye. The twelfth round was a well fought finish, with both men unleashing what they had left in the tank - which was a bit more for Warren as he had a few blistering combinations left up his sleeve. 114-114, 115-113 X2 for the NEW champion. Warren's team was then seemingly knocked out as they all fell in unison at the annoucement of the newly crowned champion. Side note: they would note have made it up for the ten count! It was one of the more emotional displays in recent memory.
Erickson Lubin (14-0, 10ko's) vs Daniel Sandoval (38-3, 34ko's) Was next up before the televised main event. In the first round Lubin established his dominance as the faster, heavier handed, more accurate man. He was landing solid 1-2's on Sandoval as well as putting body work in the bank on Sandoval's soft looking body that you could hear crack home with authority. Lubin seems to have nothing to worry about here unless Sandoval has a lot of tricks up his sleeve planned. Lubin continued pouring it on in the second round, breaking his man down as he just couldn't miss and the end looked very near despite not noticeably buckling Sandoval's knees or putting him on Queer Street just yet. Sure enough - the fight was over near the end of the third round as Sandoval just couldn't hold Lubin back anymore or get away from his straight punching. Lubin, despite being only 20 years old, has faced some stiff competition already and yet again comes out looking impressive. He looks like a blue-chipper and perhaps to some the next unstoppable force but I hope they continue bringing him along nice and easy with these journeyman tests/learning curves.
Main event time featuring Andrzej Fonfara (28-3, 16ko's) vs Joe Smith Jr. (21-1, 17ko's). A quick look at boxrec doesn't show promise for Joe Smith - not exactly the be-all end-all of course, as many a boxing connoisseur wannabe has fallen victim to the boxrec judgement curse. Fonfara is staring him down nonstop; looking ready for a fight alright! Well, as I would just allude to, boxrec is not the answer for times like these. Both men were unwilling to give ground in the first and just when it looked like Fonfara was having his way with head snapping shots starting to land Smith landed a beauty of a right hand over a lazy jab that dropped Fonfara to the canvas for an absolute shocker to everyone - including his family and friends that were jumping, shouting, screaming, crying and about every other emotion in the book. Fonfara rose but was a sitting duck due to not being much a clincher historically and he was blasted and dropped again in his own corner as the fight was stopped. Absolutely everyone was shocked - with jaws gaping down to the floor. Upset of the year candidate right here as Fonfara was a 25/1 favorite coming in. Fonfara was a gentleman and sportsman in losing; shaking the hand of everyone in Smith's corner and clapping for the victor. Would like to see a rematch to see how this fight plays out - granted it goes more rounds. Really really fun to be a part of a shocker like this - it was absolutely electric at the venue and something that a person does not forget about in a lifetime with all of the emotions bursting forth around the ring.
Post shock we had Hugo Centeno Jr. (24-0, 12ko's) vs Maciej Sulecki (22-0, 7ko's). In the first round it was a tactical fight with both men looking for openings to peck away at. Centeno was fine giving ground and looking to counter while Sulecki looks like a counterpuncher that is being forced to bring the fight. Centeno was starting to show why he wanted to counter in the second round; despite Sulecki not holding a whole of power in his hands he is the real middleweight out of the two. Centeno looked very tentative at times and was not handling the pressure well as the second round wore on. Sulecki's shots were not hurting him but he simply didn't have the respect of the bigger man. Centeno did a decent job of trying to hide how uncomfortable he was, but he was simply getting outworked for long periods of time and not establishing himself enough as Sulecki was clearly the ring general. Centeno had mild success to close the fourth round when he let his hands go but he simply could not keep that high of a work rate up or hurt Sulecki to maintain control for an entire round. The gap got wider as the rounds wore on, with Centeno looking like he was hurt at times but a tough enough veteran to continue as he dug deep instead of folding - despite hitting referee Mark Nelson with a right hand out of a clinch in the seventh round that showed that if he couldn't hurt the referee with a cold-cocked right hand he wasn't going to hurt the tough Pole in front of him. He was getting slowly worn down though and Sulecki was getting hotter and hotter - showing great stamina while he had more energy despite the rounds going deeper. One couldn't tell if Centeno was frustrated, worn out, or unprepared going down the stretch. At times he simply looked mentally out of the fight and at other times he looked physically out of the fight. Perhaps the answer lies in between: both. It all mounted to a tenth and final round stoppage for the coming out party for Sulecki when he landed a right/left hand combination down the pipe that put Centeno on his rear. He rose but looked out of the fight as referee Mark Nelson waved it off, knowing Centeno couldn't turn this one around and would only take more punishment.
Final fight of the evening was Juan Carlos Abreu (19-2-1, 18ko's) vs Alex Martin (12-0, 5ko's). Abreu was looking to intimidate the younger and less experienced fighter in the first round. He was clowning with gestures, winding up with punches, and wrestling his man to the floor to show his power. He was not effective on Martin, who has a good defense, but he was effective in making Martin tentative offensively as he did not let his hands go. Martin look the slicker and more skilled man but in this short fight he is not exactly putting rounds in the bank by covering up and fighting defensively. Abreu continued the mental games, combined with stepping on Martin's front foot constantly to hold him in place for right hands. Martin was blocking the right hands but it was an ugly fight due to low output slow action combined with very defensive tactics from Martin. Martin couldn't quite figure out how to get his front foot outside of Abreus but he did manage to start landing some flush shots by leading in the fifth round. This is the first fight in quite a while I have seen where the southpaw was having problems with the orthodox fighter and nice vice versa. Abreu got tired in the late rounds, backing up in the sixth and breathing heavy - making me wonder if he came slightly out of shape for this fight and planned on using the bully tactics to compensate for gym time lost. In the eighth and final round Abreu scored a knockdown with a right hand that sure looked to my eyes like Martin's front was held in place by Abreu's followed by a right hand that sent him down. In any case, it was ruled as such and Martin seemed to have more pep in his step to close the round despite many more clinches. 78-74 Martin, 76-75 Abreu, and 77-74 for Martin to take the MD. It was an ugly fight where Abreu used many dirty tricks and tactics but I would also argue that they were effective in nearly upsetting the youngster.