Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Houston Boxing Awards

By Peter Lim

There was no shortage of action involving Houston fighters in 2015, a year that marked the end of a seven-year drought during which the Bayou City was devoid of any world titleholders. The city also played host to some remarkable match-ups that were considered for the categories of Fight of the Year, Knockout of the Year and Upset of the Year.

And the awards go to ...

Fighter of the Year: 
Jermall Charlo

Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs) ended Houston's dry spell of world titleholders since Juan Diaz lost his triple crown in 2008 when Charlo dropped Cornelius Bundrage four times en route to a third-round TKO in September to win the IBF junior middleweight belt. He defended the belt less than three months later, scoring three knockdowns against Wilky Campfort for a fourth-round TKO. Both fights were aired on NBC.

Granted, Bundrage was over the hill and Campfort was overmatched, but Charlo nevertheless showed vestiges of Mark Breland's jab, Thomas Hearns' right cross and Ray Leonard's creative punching angles in both fights. Should he prove to have Marvin Hagler's chin, he will be as complete a fighter as they come.

Honorable mention:
Virginia Fuchs (flyweight)
Jermell Charlo (junior middleweight)
Edwin Rodriguez (light heavyweight)

Fight of the Year: 
Edwin Rodriguez KO3 Michael Seals

The five explosive knockdowns in three action-packed rounds earned this doozie of a back-alley brawl the 2015 Fight of the Year honors for it's heart-stopping, Hagler-Hearns intensity. Both fighters were one punch away from being rendered unconscious at any given moment.

Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) came out like a madman and dropped Seals (19-1, 14 KOs) in the opening moments of the fight but tasted the canvass twice and was on the verge of being stopped before the round was over. Still on unsteady legs, Rodriguez resumed his street-fighter mode and dropped Seals again in the second round. Seals was still very much in the fight and trying to set Rodriguez up for a debilitating counter when he was dropped for good in the third round.

Honorable mention:
Saul Alvarez KO3 James Kirkland
Dardan Zenunaj KO7 Bryant Cruz
Regis Prograis W8 Amos Cowart

Knockout of the Year: 
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez KO3 James Kirkland

After Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) survived Kirkland's initial blitzkrieg and dropped Kirkland in the opening round, there was little doubt as to who had the superior skill set in this highly anticipated showdown at Minute Maid Park. But rather than exercising caution against the always-dangerous Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), Alvarez turned executioner and delivered the spectacular knockout the sport so badly needed a week after the Mayweather-Pacquiao snoozer. Trapping Kirkland against the ropes in the third round, Alvarez dropped Kirkland with a right uppercut and blasted him into oblivion seconds later with a sweeping right smack on the button.

Honorable mention:
Edwin Rodriguez KO3 Michael Seals
Ivan Baranchyk KO1 Shadi Sharaweb
Miguel Flores KO2 Alfred Tetteh
Jermell Charlo KO7 Joachim Alcine
Pablo Cruz KO2 Luis Alberto Lopez
Dardan Zenunaj KO7 Bryant Cruz

Round of the Year: 
Edwin Rodriguez vs. Michael Seals (round one)
Usually a cerebral boxer-puncher, Rodriguez inexplicably morphed into a violent lunatic, clubbing Seals to the canvass in the opening seconds of the first round. Rodriguez moved in for the kill, swinging wildly like a drunken sailor in a bar fight, only to be dropped heavily by a short counter right. Rodriguez continued to attack with reckless abandon and was caught again by perfectly-timed right that left him almost comatose on the canvass. Discombobulated and delirious, he barely managed to struggle to his feet just before the bell sounded.

Still buzzed, Rodriguez somehow sobered up enough to beat Seals to the trigger, drop him again in the second round and stop him in the third. But had the bell not saved Rodriguez in the first round, this would undoubtedly have been the Upset of the Year, instead of the Round of the Year.

Honorable mention:
Cedric Agnew vs. Kevin Engel (round four)
Saul Alvarez vs. James Kirkland (round one)

Upset of the Year: 
Virginia Fuchs W3 (twice) Marlen Esparza

Southpaw Fuchs was 0-5 in her previous bouts against 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and tournament favorite Esparza, but she stepped up her game when it mattered most. She defeated Esparza not once, but twice, at the 2015 Olympic Trials in Memphis in October. Fuchs went on to win the gold medal at the Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in December.

Honorable mention:
Robinson Castellanos W10 Rocky Juarez
Samuel Gutierrez W8 Juan Leija
Cortez Coleman TKO3 Robert Silva
Cesar Vila TKO3 Craig Callaghan
Adam Lopez KO2 Pablo Cruz

Prospect of the Year:
Regis Prograis 

Prograis (16-0, 13 KOs) is awarded Prospect of the Year on the strength of his back-to-back wins over previously undefeated fighters, both on ShoBox: the Next Generation. In August, Prograis resoundingly outpointed Amos Cowart (11-1-1, 9 KOs) over eight rounds. He ended the year stopping Abel Ramos (14-1-2, 9 KOs) on cuts in nine rounds in front of his hometown crowd at the Bayou City Events Center in December. The plucky southpaw displayed a concrete chin in both fights.

Honorable mention
Miguel Flores (featherweight)
Steve Lovett (light heavyweight)
Ryan Karl (welterweight)

Comeback of the Year: 
Cornelius White
White (23-4, 17 KOs) was all but written off after three consecutive losses, two by knockout, and a lengthy layoff due to eye surgery. But he came back strong in October, outpointing legitimate contender Marcus Oliveira (26-2-1, 21 KOs) over 10 rounds proving he is still a force to be reckoned with in the light heavyweight division. 

Honorable mention:
Cedric Agnew
Bahodir Mamadjonov
Pablo Cruz

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dynamic ShoBox Quadrupleheader in Houston

Action packed Dec. 11 card in Houston

An international cast of boxers, eight of whom were undefeated, took the stage on a thrilling ShoBox quadruple header on Dec. 11 at the Bayou City Events Center in Houston. At the end of the night, five boxers had suffered their first losses, all by stoppage.

The card was staged by Savarese Boxing Promotions and DiBella Entertainment.

In the main event local favorite Regis Prograis (16-0, 13 KOs) stopped Abel Ramos (14-1-2, 9 KOs) in the ninth round on cuts in blood-and-guts junior welterweight war.

Prograis, a southpaw, was the more accurate and elusive of the two. Utilizing difficult southpaw stances and firing from various angles, he tattooed Ramos to the head and body with multi-punch flurries. By the third round, a cut had opened above Ramos' left eye. Ramos, 23, hung tough and delivered jolting hooks to the head and rights to the body but Prograis, 26, absorbed them well and continued to dominate the exchanges.

"People think they're going to knock me out, but that ain't happening," Prograis said. "My chin is golden. You ain't going to knock me out with nothing."

By the eighth round, Ramos' cut was visibly impairing his vision as he kept pawing at it with his gloves. He obviously couldn't see the punches coming as Prograis was hitting him with virtual impunity. His corner stopped the fight before the bell sounded to start the ninth round.

In the co-main event, grit and guts prevailed over skill and speed as lightweight Dardan Zenunaj (11-1, 9 KOs) of Belgium stopped Bryant Cruz (16-1, 8 KOs) in an electrifying war of attrition. Cruz plastered Zenunaj with rapid-fire flurries and defended himself well from incoming artillery, but the Belgian stubbornly kept chugging forward.

Zenunaj's dogged determination paid off in the fourth when he wobbled Cruz with a left hook to the temple and immediately pounced with a follow-up salvo punctuated with a left hook to the jaw that sent Cruz to the canvass. Cruz beat the count and continued to rattle off multi-punch combinations for the next two rounds. But the writing was on the wall. While Cruz's punches bounced harmlessly off the Belgian, Zenunaj seemed to hurt Cruz every time he connected.

In the closing seconds of the seventh round, Zenunaj unleashed a right uppercut followed by a sweeping left hook that sent Cruz to the deck for the second time. Cruz wearily made it back to his corner but trainer Ronnie Shields would not allow him to come out for the eighth and final round.

“I wanted it to be a war for all of the people watching and I did it, so I’m feeling really good," Zenunaj said."He is really good, much stronger than I believed he would be. He hung in there, but I did the work and I won."

Murderous punching Russian junior welterweight Ivan Baranchyk (9-0, 8 KOs) scored a blood-curdling first round knockout over Shadi Shawereb (9-1-2, 5 KOs) in a junior welterweight bout. With half a minute left in the round, Baranchyk cornered Shawereb and followed an overhand right with a decapitating left hook that dropped him for the full count and then some. Shawereb remained on the canvass for several minutes.

Middleweight Steve Rolls (13-0, 7 KOs) of Canada scored a come-from-behind fourth round stoppage over Steed Woodall (9-1-1, 6 KOs) of England. Working his left jab overtime, Woodall dominated the first three rounds, scoring a flash knockdown in the second round.

But just as Woodall seemed to be taking full control, Rolls found his timing for one-twos in the fourth for which Woodall had no answers. With Woodall trapped in a corner, Rolls unleashed a double-fisted volley that bounced Woodall's head around like a speed bag. Referee Lawrence Cole stepped in to save Woodall from further punishment at the 2:36 mark.

Local favorite Pablo Cruz (12-1, 4 KOs) dropped previously undefeated Luis Alberto Lopez (6-1, 3 KOs) three times en route to a second-round knockout in a featherweight bout. Cruz caught Lopez coming in with a short left hook that sent him to the canvass in the opening round. In the second round, Cruz fired a straight right followed by a left hook that felled him again. Lopez rose on spaghetti legs and Cruz pounced with a laser of a right hand that put him down for good.

“Coach Aaron (Navarro) kept telling me to throw the right hand and double it,” Cruz said. “I caught him with it and I saw him wobble a little so I put more power to it and boom, that was that.”

Southpaw Aziz Izbakiyez (2-0, 2 KOs) of Kazakhstan, scored three knockdowns over Joshua Clayton (0-1) for a first round TKO in a middleweight bout. Clayton jumped on Izbakiyez when the bell sounded and unloaded with both fists in a corner. But the Kazakh covered himself well and countered with a right-left-right hook that dumped Clayton to the canvass. Izbakiyez scored two more knockdowns courtesy of straight lefts before the referee stepped in.

Featherweight Darryl Hayes (5-5, 1 KO) dropped Jose Ortiz (0-4-1) in the first round en route to a four-round decision victory.

Houston-based Cuban Yunier Fleitas (5-0-1, 1 KOs) dropped Patrick Simes (1-5) in the second round en route to a six-round decision in a middleweight bout.