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BOSTON BEATDOWN “Light-Hitting” Bracero Scores Possible KO of 2015 Over O’Connor

Jeffrey Freeman

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LOWELL, MASS — This is a boxing town. Fights happen all the time here. Several broke out on Saturday night at the venerable Lowell Memorial Auditorium during a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) fight card promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Boston’s Murphy’s Boxing.

This is a very good thing. Televised on NBC Sports Network, PBC’s revolutionary ringleader Al Haymon continued his strategic takeover of boxing here, producing prizefights in a city best known for “Irish” Micky Ward of Gatti Trilogy fame and Dickie Eklund of Crack Street infamy.

When recent attempts by Chicago Fight Club Promotions to promote boxing in the Mill City city fell flat at this venue and at the nearby Tsongas Arena in 2012 and 2013 respectively, it was obvious that change was needed in Lowell’s professional boxing scene.

That was then. This is now.

Give Lowell boxing fans good fights (with body punches in bunches) featuring local fighters they can cheer for and that’s just what they did while Dropkick Murphys tunes blared through the sound system.

A fun brawler named “Spike” from Cork, Ireland on the undercard doesn’t exactly hurt either.

With Sugar Ray Leonard calling the punches from ringside in the same building where he once competed as an amateur, the stage was set for fight night.

In the main event, welterweight Danny O’Connor, Framingham, MA, 26-3, 10 KOs, 146.2, was knocked out cold in just 41 seconds of the first round by a counter right hand from Gabriel Bracero, Brooklyn, NY, 24-2, 5 KOs, 146.8, a punch that sent O’Connor down and out for what could’ve easily been the 2015 Knockout of the Year.

O’Connor, fighting for redemption from a 2011 decision loss to Bracero, never got untracked and his swift defeat was rightly seen as a huge surprise by everybody in attendance. Nobody was expecting a knockout in this fight, least of all one like that from Bracero. O’Connor made it to his feet after the brutal loss, but where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. Said the victorious Bracero, “I was depressed after my last loss. This is a dream come true.”

Bracero’s trainer Tommy Gallagher, amazed by the power display, spoke of an Adrien Broner fight on the horizon for his charge.

In the co-main event, super bantamweight knockout artist Jonathan Guzman, Lawrence, MA, 20-0, 20 KOs, 121.6, beat up Danny Aquino, Meriden, CT, 17-3, 10 KOs, 121.6, scoring a ninth round stoppage to keep his twenty fight KO streak alive.

Coming off the biggest win of his career against Ryan Kielczweski last April on ESPN Friday Night Fights, Aquino was down from a sweeping left hook in the second round and down again in the same frame from a cuffing right to the chops inside. Aquino battled back into the fight in the third round but the writing was already on the wall for the native Mexican. Too much speed and too much power from Guzman. Aquino was walking himself straight into his own defeat and Guzman was glad to oblige him with skillful precision. In the ninth, Aquino was again dumped to the canvas from a hurtful barrage of punches and referee Jackie Morrell put a stop to it at 1:19. Aquino didn’t like the decision to end the fight but going the distance was the best he could’ve hoped for.

Ryan “The Polish Prince” Kielczweski, Quincy, MA, 24-1, 7 KOs, 125.8, got a roaring reception before (and after) his televised bout against Rafael Vazquez, Brooklyn, NY, 16-2, 13 KOs, 126. The popular local featherweight is a crafty boxer with a tight defense and he put those skills on display from the outside early against Vazquez, a durable if not particularly creative fighter. Using his young fresh legs in a 22 foot ring, Kielczweski gave the New Yorker a lot of different looks as he gradually dialed in the left hook to the head and body. When Vazquez would lean to avoid punches, Kielczweski chopped away with right hands to the side of the head. In an excellent sixth round, Kielczweski stood in the middle of the ring and punished his tiring opponent before taking his best in return. In the eighth, the “Polish Prince” poured it on when Vazquez suddenly appeared to gas out. At the end of the round, a cut appeared around the left eye of Kielczweski and the ringside doctor took a close look at the slice in the corner before the ninth round. Just like that, Vazquez had new life in the ring and he went for Kielczweski’s injured eye with every punch he threw. The pair wailed away in the tenth after giving an appreciative crowd a competitive fight worth standing up to cheer for. Kielczweski was rewarded for his exciting effort with a unanimous decision. Official scores were 97-93, 97-93, and 96-94. Said the winner, “I knew Vazquez could punch and I avoided it for the most part but then he rocked me in the tenth round. I didn’t know where my feet were, it was great.”

Undercard Bouts: In the evening opener, lightweight Fernando Saucedo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 57-6-3, 10 KOs, stopped Carlos Fulgencio, Santa Domingo, RD, 19-17-1, 12 KOs, in the second round of a scheduled eight rounder at 1:23. Dropped along the ropes and draped on them for support, referee Arthur Mercante counted out Fulgencio and then gave him a pat on the head for a good effort.

Super featherweight Titus Williams, Elmont, NY, 3-0, 2 KOs, 131.2, abused a defenseless Arthur Parker, Pennsylvania, 1-14-2, 1 KO, 134.6, with a variety of outside shots to the head and body of his game but undertrained opponent. In the second round, Parker went down in a corner under assault to the midsection and it was there that he took a full count from referee Jackie Morrell at 1:04.

Middleweight Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, Cork, Ireland, 22-1, 15 KOs, 172.6, wore “WAR” on his boxing trunks and war is what he waged on David Toribio, Miami, FL, 21-16, 14 KOs, 174.2, from the opening bell, dropping his overmatched opponent twice in the first, once with a jab. O’Sullivan quickly attacked a still hurting Toribio in the second round, dropping him in a corner with more punches downstairs. Time of the knockout was :28 of the second round. I spoke to Spike afterwards and the plan according to him is to fight Chris Eubank Jr. next and then hopefully Gennady Golovkin in the near future. Dream big Spike, dream big.

Junior lightweight Steve Ormond, Dublin, Ireland, 19-2, 10 KOs, 139, wore out Michael Clark, Columbus, OH, 44-14-1, 18 KOs, 140.6, to the body at 1:49 of the very first round, scoring two knockdowns before busy Lowell referee Jackie Morrell counted to ten.

Heavyweight Adam Kownacki, Brooklyn, NY, 12-0, 10 KOs, 261.2, pounded out an eight round decision over Rodney Hernandez, Modesto, CA, 8-3-1, 1 KO, 240, in a slow motion slugfest. All three judges had it 78-74 for Kownacki, who goes by “Baby Face.”

Lightweight Patrick Hyland, Dublin, Ireland, 31-1, 15 KOs, 128.4 defeated a game David Martinez, Albuquerque, NM, 18-8-1, 3 KOs, 128, by technical knockout at :17 of the eighth round.

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Remembering Oscar ‘Shotgun’ Albarado (1948-2021)

Arne K. Lang

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Former world junior middleweight champion Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado passed away on Feb. 17 at age 72 in a nursing home in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas. Albarado’s death didn’t go unnoticed in the town that he put on the sporting map, but news out of Uvalde appears to travel to the outside world by Pony Express. There’s been no notice of it in the boxing press; even the authoritative boxrec has yet to acknowledge his passing. This isn’t uncommon. A boxer has a high probability of dying in obscurity, even if he had a large fan base during his heyday.

The folks in Uvalde had a big shindig to honor Albarado after he won the title; a barbecue at the fairgrounds. “All Texas and especially the city of Uvalde share pride in your accomplishments,” read a proclamation from the Governor of Texas, Dolph Briscoe.

The date was June 20, 1974. Sixteen days earlier, Albarado had wrested the 154-pound title from Koichi Wajima in Tokyo. Down two points on two of the scorecards through the 14 completed rounds, Albarado took the bout out of the judges hands, knocking Wajima down three times and out in the final stanza.

It was a long road to Tokyo. An eight-year pro, Oscar had at least 55 pro fights under his belt when he was granted a crack at the title. As he was scaling the ladder with occasional missteps, he became a fan favorite at the Olympic Auditorium, the shrine of Mexican-American boxing in L.A. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Albarado’s parents were migrant farm workers. They spent a portion of each year picking sugar beets in Minnesota. The kids went along with them. Albarado was purportedly six years old when he first worked in the fields.

He was 17 years old when he had his first documented fight, a 4-rounder in San Antonio, but there are some reports that say he was fighting in Mexico when he was as young as 15.

Albarado became a local attraction in South Texas and then spread his wings, moving to Los Angeles where there was better sparring and boxers of Mexican extraction were a more highly-valued commodity. He was backed by LA fight functionary Harry Kabakoff, a wheeler-dealer who knew all the right people. A colorful character, Kabakoff, born Melville Himmelfarb (don’t ask) had struck it big with bantamweight Jesus “Little Poison” Pimentel, a boxer he discovered while living in Mexicali.

Billed as the Uvalde Shotgun and eventually as just Shotgun Albarado, Oscar had his first fight at the Olympic on Jan. 9, 1969, and four more fights there in the next three months. He lost the last of the five and with it his undefeated record to Hedgemon Lewis who out-pointed him in a 10-round fight. There was no shame in losing to Hedgemon, an Eddie Futch fighter who went on to become a world title-holder.

Albarado was back at the Olympic before the year was out. All told, he had 17 fights at the fabled South Grand Street arena, going 13-3-1. His other losses came at the hands of Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez (L UD 10) and Dino Del Cid.

Del Cid, dressed with a 29-8-2 record, was a Puerto Rican from the streets of New York or a Filipino, depending on which LA newspaper one chose to read. Apprised that Albarado was a slow starter, he came out slugging. A punch behind the ear knocked Albarado woozy and the ref stepped in and stopped it. It was all over in 81 seconds.

Oscar demanded a rematch and was accommodated. Six weeks later, he avenged the setback in grand style, decking Del Cid three times in the opening stanza and knocking him down for the count in the following round with his “shotgun,” his signature left hook.

As the house fighter, Albarado got the benefit of the doubt when he fought Thurman Durden in January of 1973. The decision that went his way struck many as a bit of a gift. But the same thing had happened to him in an earlier fight when he opposed fast-rising welterweight contender Armando Muniz.

As popular as Alvarado was at the Olympic, his pull paled beside that of young Muniz. Born in Mexico but a resident of Los Angeles from the age of six, Muniz attended UCLA on a wrestling scholarship before finishing his studies at a commuter school and had represented the United States in the 1968 Olympics while serving in the Army.

Muniz vs. Alvarado was a doozy. We know that without seeing the fight as we have the empirical evidence in the form of the description of the scene at the final bell; appreciative fans showered the ring with coins. The verdict, a draw, met with the approval of the folks in the cheap seats, but ringside reporters were of the opinion that “Shotgun” was wronged. The LA Times correspondent had it 7-2-1 for the Texan.

Oscar had two more fights after avenging his loss to Del Cid before heading off to Tokyo to meet the heavily-favored Wajima who was making the seventh defense of his 154-pound title. Two more trips to Tokyo would follow in quick succession.

Albarado made the first defense of his newly-acquired belt against Ryu Sorimachi. He stopped him in the seventh round, putting him down three times before the match was halted. Three-and-a-half months later, he gave the belt back to Wajima, losing a close but unanimous decision in their rematch.

Oscar quit the sport at this juncture, returning to Uvalde. He was in good shape financially. He had used his earnings from his Olympic Auditorium fights to open a gas station. With the Tokyo money, he expanded his holdings by purchasing a laundromat.

This would be a nice place to wrap up this story. Former Austin American-Statesman sportswriter Jack Cowan, a Uvalde native, recalled that when Oscar opened his service station, he gave his new customers an autographed photo of himself in a boxing pose inscribed with the words “Oscar Albarado: The Next World Champion.” He would make that dream become a reality, defying the odds, while breaking the cycle of poverty in his family. Boxing was the steppingstone to a better life for him and his children.

But ending the story right here would be disingenuous. This is boxing, after all, and when the life story of a prominent boxer comes fully into a focus, a feel-good story usually takes a wrong turn.

Oscar got the itch to fight again. Sixty-seven months after walking away from boxing, he resumed his career with predictable results. He was only 34 when he returned to the ring, but he was a shell of his former self, an old 34.

Albarado was knocked out in five of his last seven fights before leaving the sport for good with a record of 57-13-1 (43 KOs). He made his final appearance in Denmark, the adopted home of double-tough Ayub Kalule who whacked him out in the second round.

Albarado’s obituary in the Uvalde paper was uncharacteristically blunt. “He suffered from pugilistic dementia,” it said, “caused by repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows.”

There was no sugar-coating there, no Parkinson’s to obfuscate the truth.

If he had known the fate that awaited him, would he have still chosen the life of a prizefighter? That’s not for us to say, but author Tris Dixon, while researching his new book, spoke to a bunch of neurologically damaged fighters and almost to a man they said they would do it all over again.

Albarado had four children, three sons and a daughter. When he was elected to the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, he was too decrepit to travel, but all four of his children — Oscar Jr, Emmanuel, Jacob, and Angela — made the trip to North Hollywood to accept the award on his behalf.

The kids were proud of their old man, a feeling that did not dissipate as he became incapacitated. If boxing was helpful in tightening the bond, then it’s a fair guess the Uvalde Shotgun had no regrets.

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Brandon Figueroa KOs Nery and Danny Roman Wins Too

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Brandon Figueroa took the air out of Mexico’s Luis Nery to win by knockout and unify the WBA and WBC super bantamweight titles on Saturday. It was a belly buster that did the job.

Texan Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) set out to prove that Tijuana’s two-division world champion Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) could not endure a toe-to-toe battle with the bigger guys and he proved it before several thousand fans at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

It was a back-and-forth battle that saw Nery attack the body and head while Figueroa focused on winging big blows from a distance and in close. Many of the rounds were extremely close to score.

When Nery was able to battle from a distance and dive inside, he seemed the much more athletic between the two champions. But Figueroa just seemed stronger and unfazed by any of the Mexican fighter’s blows.

Though Figueroa absorbed a lot of punishment, he never seemed in trouble. When Nery connected with a several combinations in the fifth round by landing five-punch and three-punch combinations, it looked like he was taking control.

He did not.

Figueroa opened the sixth round with two left hook blasts that reminded Nery that the taller Texan had a punch. When Nery tried to rally with his own blasts, Figueroa slipped under back-to-back left hooks. It seemed to change the tide.

“I knew he was getting tired,” said Figueroa. “He was trying to box me.”

In the seventh round Figueroa was able to connect with a left hook and followed up with a lead right. Nery countered with a three-punch combination that was met with Figueroa countering with a three-punch combination to the head and body. Then both fighters exchanged inside and Figueroa connected with a right to the chest and a left uppercut to the solar plexus and down went Nery.

Nery could not beat referee Tom Taylor’s count and was counted out at 2:18 of the seventh round.

Figueroa is now the WBC and WBA super bantamweight unified champion.

“It feels amazing,” said Figueroa. “I know everyone doubted me.”

Roman Wins Super Bantam Eliminator

Los Angeles-based Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) battered Mexico’s Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs) to win convincingly by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super bantamweight fight.

After a slow start Roman began to out-maneuver the heavy-punching Espinoza and found openings for left uppercuts. Boy did he find openings.

“I concentrated on finding my distance,” said Roman.

Roman snapped Espinoza’s head back so many times it seemed that the Mexican fighter would not be able to last the full 10 rounds. But like most Mexican fighters he would not quit.

Espinoza tried every move in his catalogue but nothing worked against the superb technique used by Roman, who formerly held the IBF and WBA super bantamweight world titles. It was a perfect example of technical prowess defeating raw power.

The uppercut was the chosen weapon of choice and Roman exhibited how to throw it from various positions and angles. It landed perfectly every time as if targeted by a laser. Espinoza never could avoid the uppercut.

During the last three rounds Espinoza’s face was bloody and battered while Roman looked as if he were merely sparring. The end seemed near but the fighter from Tijuana battled until the final bell.

“I thought he was going to go down,” said Roman. “But he had a big heart.”

All three judges scored it for Roman at 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

“It’s a step closer to getting back my titles,” said Roman who lost the titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev a year ago by split decision. “I’m here to fight the best.”

Martinez Beats Burgos

Sacramento’s Xavier Martinez (16-0, 11 KOs) discovered that Tijuana’s Juan Carlos Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs) still has plenty of fight remaining and showed it with a gutsy 10 rounds of back-and-forth battering. Still, Martinez won by unanimous decision though every round was competitive.

Boy was it competitive.

Martinez, 23, had a 10-year advantage in youth but was unable to convince Burgos. Every round saw savage combinations connect by each fighter, but the judges all felt that the Sacramento fighter was superior. All three scored it 99-91 for Martinez. The crowd booed the decision.

“I was landing the cleaner shots,” said Martinez. “He’s a tough competitor.”

Other Results

A super lightweight match saw Jose Valenzuela (8-0) knock out Nelson Hampton (7-4) in the first round.

Gabriela Fundora (1-0) won her pro debut by unanimous decision over Jazmin Valverde (2-2) in a four round flyweight match. Fundora is the sister of super welterweight contender Sebastian Fundora.

A lightweight bout was won by Justin Cardona (5-0) by first round knockout of James De Herrera (4-7).

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Buatsi Flattens Dos Santos in Manchester; Charr KOs Fraudulent Lovejoy in Cologne

Arne K. Lang

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In a Knockout of the Year candidate, rising light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) leveled Daniel Blenda Dos Santos, an unheralded Frenchman, in the fourth round, closing the show with a pulverizing right hand – and for good measure, touching him with another right as he fell. A 2016 Olympic bronze medalist for England, the Ghana-born Buatsi trained for two months in the California Bay Area under his new trainer Virgil Hunter and his American sojourn paid dividends.

Dos Santos, who found his way to boxing after serving three-and-a-half years in prison, was undefeated (15-0, 8 KOs) coming in, but hadn’t fought beyond six rounds. He was knocked down earlier in the fight with a chopping right hand. There were less than 20 seconds remaining in the fourth when Buatsi put Dos Santos to sleep, and to his credit he did not celebrate but consoled his distraught victim.

Other Bouts

In a shocker, 31-year-old southpaw Jason Cunningham improved to 29-6 (6) with a unanimous decision over Gamal Yafai (18-2) who was making the first defense of the European bantamweight title that he won in Milan.

Cunningham had Yafai on the canvas three times — knocking him down with left hands in the second, fourth and sixth rounds — but Yafai, the younger brother of former 115-pound world title-holder Kal Yafai — wasn’t deterred and kept coming forward. In the end, however, Cunningham’s lead was too big for Yafai to overcome. The judges had it 115-110 and 114-111 x2 for the southpaw who was a consensus 10/1 underdog.

Super middleweight Lerrone Richards breezed to a lopsided 12-round decision over Italian veteran Giovanni DeCarolis to snatch a vacant European title. Trained by Dave Coldwell, who previously handled Tony Bellew, Richards was content to rack up points and the one-dimensional DeCarolis, who was making his first start in 23 months, had no way to stop him.

The judges had it 120-108 and 119-109 twice. The London-born Richards, whose family roots are in Ghana, improved to 15-0 (3). This may have been the last rodeo for the 36-year-old DeCarolis who fell to 28-10-1.

Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy (18-2, 9 KOs) was fed a softie for his first defense of his European cruiserweight title in the form of 36-year-old Romanian Alexandru Jur who brought a 19-4 record but had defeated only four men with winning records. Except for a few brief moments, Jur showed little inclination to mix it up. McCarthy put Jur down with a body punch in round four and finished him off two rounds later with another body punch. The official time was 2:09.

McCarthy, who is of Irish and Jamaican descent, moves on to a date with fellow Brit Chris Billam-Smith. Jur lost for the fourth time in his last six starts.

Cologne

Credit Christopher Lovejoy for having the gumption to defy Don King who threatened legal action if Lovejoy went ahead with his match today with WBA “champion in recess” Mahmoud (Manuel) Charr. But the 37-year-old Lovejoy, who arrived in Germany all by himself, traveled a long way to destroy whatever credibility he may have had. Fighting off the grid, he had rung up 19 fast knockouts in 19 fights against 19 presumptive Tijuana taxi drivers.

Carrying 306 ½-pounds, the six-foot-five Lovejoy lasted less than two full rounds against Charr who was making his first ring appearance in 42 months. Lovejoy was counted out after being dropped with a volley of punches in the second round.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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