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Ortiz’s Upset Ended a Long Night in Philly, and Much Longer Wait for the Met

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As the featured attractions of the evening were preparing to enter the ring and make history of sorts,  ring announcer Mark Fratto enthusiastically reminded the sellout crowd of 3,400-plus that what was about to happen was “the first main event here in 65 years!”

Put in that perspective, what had already been a long day’s journey into night, or more accurately a long night’s journey toward very early the next morning, didn’t seem that long at all. True, the first bout of a very full pugilistic dance card – 10 fights in all, with another canceled because of an unspecified “medical condition” involving one of the would-be participants – began right on time at 7 p.m., but over 4½ hours had elapsed when the scorecards for lightweight Steven Ortiz’s unanimous, eight-round decision over fellow Philadelphian Jeremy Cuevas were read by Fratto. Figure on a show that would have lasted five hours had that 11th fight taken place, or if three fights that did happen not ended in the first round, with two more only making it to round two.

But here’s the thing: boxing at the exquisitely refurbished The Met Philadelphia, which had not been the site of a boxing event since 1954, was back in the fight game, and back with a high enough entertainment quotient that few if any spectators left early because of fatigue, boredom or short attention spans.

“We’re just blessed,” Manny Rivera, president of Hard Hitting Promotions, said of the first of what he plans to be six fight cards at The Met in 2019, the next scheduled for April 26. “We had a turnout of about 3,350, maybe 3,400 (capacity for boxing had been pegged at be 3,200). I knew it could happen, but it is humbling to know that we have the support that we have. The people got their money’s worth that was more important to me than anything. We said we’re here to put on good, competitive fights, and we delivered.”

But Rivera – who snagged the coveted boxing tie-in with Live Nation Philadelphia, the concert promotional company that controls other usage dates at The Met, the erstwhile Metropolitan Opera House which over the past 18 months underwent a $56 million transformation to the historic building’s former opulence – didn’t have the total level of the satisfaction he might have had, the large audience notwithstanding. Two of Hard Hitting’s more important assets, Cuevas and super lightweight Samuel Teah, each lost his bout for a vacant Pennsylvania State championship. Then again, Rivera can justifiably note that he didn’t shortchange the paying customers by feeding a couple of his headliners no-hope opponents, as so often is the case with cards more geared toward padding the records of the favored few.

Cuevas, now 11-1 with eight victories inside the distance, might have preferred a softer touch than he got in Ortiz (10-0, 3 KOs), who floored him in the second and seventh rounds of the scheduled eight-rounder en route to a surprisingly wide margin of victory on the scorecards submitted by James Kenney (79-71) and Dewey LaRosa and Ron McNair (each 78-72).

Although Cuevas declined to be interviewed, his disappointment at being tagged with his first professional defeat elicited a familiar reaction from previously undefeated fighters whose initial reaction is that their dreams have come crashing down, never to be resurrected. “He was, like, `It’s all over, it’s all over,’” said his mom. Cuevas’ cornermen were a bit more pragmatic, vowing that their guy’s somewhat surprising comeuppance from Ortiz would simply serve as a learning experience, a useful building block on the way back to bigger and better things.

An exuberant Ortiz, on the other hand, thought he had just laid such a building block. He had helped prepare for Cuevas, a highly mobile southpaw with decent pop, in part through sparring sessions with Luis Collazo, the 37-year-old former welterweight champion and still a pretty slick lefthander at this advanced stage of his career.

“I’m excited. I’m glad I made history,” Ortiz, from North Philly, said of the distinction of being the first winning main-event fighter in the long-delayed return of boxing to The Met. “I got a win over a great fighter, and the crowd was a sellout. This is amazing, man. I’m impressed with myself.”

Ortiz’s 33.3 percent knockout rate coming in suggested a lack of punching power, but he didn’t just floor Cuevas with a left hook in the closing seconds of round two, he shook him, badly. That shot either had the effect of taking some of the spring out of Cuevas’ legs, or convincing him that he needed to stand and trade more to make up for lost ground. Either way, it didn’t work as he again went to the canvas after getting nailed by an overhand right in round seven.

“The power was there,” Ortiz said. “We’re definitely going to start getting more guys out of there. It comes with experience, with discipline, with staying focused. We’re going to keep getting better, we’re going to keep getting stronger, we’re going to keep getting smarter.”

The Ortiz-Cuevas fight was good stuff, and it had to be, given that the preceding bout – an eight-round unanimous decision for Baltimore welterweight Malik Hawkins (14-0, 9 KOs) over Gledwin Ortiz (6-3, 5 KOs) – was main-event worthy. No knockdowns were registered, but Hawkins’ heavier hands made the difference the active and very game Ortiz (no relation to Steven Ortiz), whose bleached blond hairstyle would make him the winner of a Jarrett Hurd (he’s the IBF/WBA super welterweight champion) lookalike contest, if there were such a thing. Scores were 79-73, 79-74 and 77-75, all for Hawkins.

Teah (15-3-1, 7 KOs), from Northeast Philly by way of his native Liberia, couldn’t come close to solving the southpaw stylings of Tre’Sean Wiggins (11-4-1, 6 KOs) in an eight-rounder for the vacant Pennsylvania State super lightweight title. That almost was to be expected, Teach having lost an eight-round majority decision to another lefthander, Montana Love, on Feb. 2, 2018.

“Typically Sammy has problems with southpaws,” said Rivera, who thus might not have done Teah any favors by making this particular bout. “But Sammy has fights he needs to take, and win. Tonight he couldn’t pull it off, but he’ll be back.”

Some found it curious that Wiggins, who was introduced as being from Newburgh, N.Y., was fighting for a Pennsylvania state championship. Rivera, however, said it was a legit pairing, that Wiggins was only born in Newburgh and that he now resides in Johnstown, Pa.

The most emphatic ending of the night was registered by super lightweight Brandon Pizarro (14-1, 7 KOs), a 19-year-old up-and-comer who put Zack Ramsey (8-6, 4 KOs), of Springfield, Mass., down twice in the opening round, the first time on a left hook to the body, the second, for the full count, on a left uppercut.

Super featherweight Gadwin Rosa (10-0, 8 KOs), of Ocala, Fla., remained undefeated with a second-round stoppage of Jorge Luis Santos (5-3-1, 2 KOs), of Mexico.  Also extending an unblemished record was another super featherweight, Puerto Rico’s Christian Tapia (8-0, 7 KOs), who also required just two rounds to put away David Veras Pena (0-2-1) on a second-round TKO.

In other bouts, bantamweight Emanuel Rodriguez (4-0), of Newark, N.J., took a four-round unanimous decision over Jose Lopez (0-1-1), Bronx, N.Y.; light heavyweight Benjamin Sinakin (3-0, 2 KOs), South Philly, bombed out fellow Philly guy Ronald Lawrence (0-4) in one round; Josue Rosa (1-0, 1 KO), Philly, turned pro with what goes into the books as a first-round stoppage when Willie Anderson (0-2), Paulsboro, N.J., did not come out for the second round, citing injury, and bantamweights Tamar Israeli (2-0-1, 2 KOs) and Karen Dullin (3-16-1, 1 KOs), North Kingstown, R.I., fought to a four-round majority draw in a women’s matchup.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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Results and Recaps from Fantasy Springs where Rocha Topped Dominguez

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Ringside Report by TSS Special Correspondent Raymundo Dioses…INDIO, CA – Alexis Rocha faced off against undefeated Santiago Dominguez and earned a hard-fought unanimous decision win for the NABO welterweight title on July 19, 2024 at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in a live event presented by DAZN.  The 10-round fight featured plenty of action on a hot night where temperature hit 111 degrees in the Southern California desert.

Rocha, (25-2, 16 KOs) looked to time Dominguez early on and began to throw in combinations leading to his impressive win. Dominguez would press Rocha against the ropes seeking some shots of his own in a fight which swayed back and forth until Rocha was able to find a late rhythm towards the end of the bout.

Rocha began to back up Dominguez, (27-1, 20 KOs) with shots and catch openings while on the inside, with Dominguez steadily slowing from the effects of Rocha’s shots. Rocha kept his hands busy and would catch Dominguez when he would step outside of range, and he began to control the middle of the ring and the terms of the fight as the bout progressed.

Judge Fernando Villareal had it 98-92 while Carla Caiz and Pat Russell scored the bout 99-91 for Rocha, who now finds himself in title contention in the 147-pound division.

“I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just a banger, I can use my IQ in there and that’s what I needed,” said  Rocha. “I knew Dominguez was going to come forward, he just keeps coming, so that’s what I wanted to show. It’s more about my brains from now on. I want to be very aware in the ring, and I want to use my brains. That’s all you’re going to see moving forward. I have a great team behind me, Golden Boy, and we’re just going to see what’s next. I’m right there. I’m knocking on the door still. The belts are gonna be open anytime soon, so I’m just knocking on the door right now.”

The fighters utilized combinations effectively and often, landing on even terms until Rocha found his timing in the second half of the fight and sealed the win.  A solid left hook from Rocha paused Dominguez in his tracks as Rocha began to close in and slow the return fire from Dominguez.

A one-two combination to the chin landed for Dominguez to begin the seventh round. The action moved to center ring with the fighter’s trading shots which got the fans cheering.  Rocha threw a combination and landed a straight-right hand which was effective throughout the contest.

A combination of punches nearly had Dominguez down in the later rounds yet Dominguez would bounce back and punch Rocha to the ropes. There was more middle ring trading as the fight unfolded and both fighters would find offense with Rocha getting the better of the action.

Rocha often fought through a jab to the head and body of Dominguez.  A head-body combination worked for Rocha, and one-two combinations followed by body shots came from Rocha who was making headway as the more offensively scoring fighter.

Time was called by referee Ray Corona in the final round as Dominguez was punched on the leg, and once the action resumed a series of trading resulted in Rocha landing the last punch. Rocha not only landed at will in the last half of the fight, he began to make Dominguez miss and matters ended after ten completed rounds with the fighters throwing as the ten second bell ticked.

Rocha, the youngest fighter to win a gold medal at the junior Olympics at age 14, began his pro career in 2016 fighting under the Golden Boy Promotions banner and the Californian went 16-0 before losing to Rashidi Ellis in October 2020.  Rocha would not lose again until three years later in an all-California match-up against Giovani Santillan in October 2023.  He is the younger brother of former world title challenger Ronny Rios.

Rocha would lose the Santillan fight via knockout loss, yet the new NABO titleholder had a bounce-back win in March 2024 over Frederick Lawson leading into the Dominguez fight.

CO-FEATURE

The nights co-main event saw Gregory Morales, (17-1, 9 KOs) defeat Jayvon Garnett over 10 rounds after a fast start, slow ending type fight in the featherweight division.

Round one was a feeler type affair for both combatants with each fighter seeking to gain ground. The pot-shotting continued into the second round until Morales, who last fought to a decision win on the January 2024 Jaime Munguia-John Ryder tilt in Arizona, was able to put his punches together via combinations.

Garnett landed a combination of his own to begin rounds two and three, and Cincinnati, Ohio’s Garnett proceeded to let his hands go as round three wore on. Busy hands lead to good things in the boxing ring. The fight then swung slightly in Morales’ favor at the 10-second mark of the round with a few punches followed by an audible body shot.

The body shots thrown with both hands continued from Morales in round four which Garnett taunted as non-effective. Morales marched forward and resumed his body attack. Garnett kept busy midway through the fight yet Morales kept composed and pressed forward despite the offense of Garnett. A big shot came from Garnett which did not faze Morales in the sixth round and Morales was able to answer as the round ended.

The action dulled in round seven with fighter fatigue setting in. Morales was finally able to back up Garnett (10-2, 5 KOs) in the eighth round with right hands and in the ninth Morales continued to press Garnett against the ropes. Shots were landed from both fighters near the end of the round.

The final frame was a ‘who wants it more’ type of three minutes with the fighters each wanting to either score a stoppage or win a pivotal round on the judge’s scorecards. The round ended with respect as the fighter’s traded pleasantries after trading blows for 10 rounds.

Scorecards were 96-94, 98-92 and 99-91 all for Morales.

COACHELLA’S FLORES REMAINS UNDEFEATED WITH KO OVER MEZA

The Coachella Valley’s hot prospect Grant Flores scored an impressive stoppage win over Juan Meza in a super welterweight fight.

At the outset Flores, (6-0, 5 KOs) timed Meza well, gauging the distance of his opponent which led to a stirring right hand to end the first round. Flores rocked Meza again in the second round and Meza showed signs of fatigue. Fiery right hands rocked Meza into the red corner and after a few more shots referee Ray Corona had seen enough and waved off the fight at 1:54 of round two.

At a ripe age of 19, Flores is trained by noted trainer Joel Diaz and impressively fought just three weeks ago at the same venue, registering a knockout over Josias Gonzalez on the June 27, 2024 Golden Boy Fight Night card.

CHAVEZ DEFEATS KITANI IN FIGHT OF THE NIGHT

In a tightly contested featherweight matchup Jorge Chavez, (12-0, 8 KOs) and Riku Kitani earned fight of the night honors in their entertaining six-round featherweight bout which resulted in a decision win for Chavez.

The fist throwers battled on even terms and lived up to the featherweight division way of punches in bunches. The action was mostly in the middle of the ring with each fighter connecting and trading.  Each three-minute round was used as a battleground for the fighters.

A clash of heads midway through the fight briefly stopped the action in round four. Chavez threw the classic one-two combination throughout the fight, yet Kitani, (8-3, 3 KOs) would answer with shots of his own.  Referee Raymond Armendariz had the fighters tap each other’s gloves to begin the final round which saw Chavez stalk and land, and Kitani counter-punch in a fight that ended with cheers from the crowd.

Scores were all for Chavez at 60-54.

HOMETOWN FAVORITE LUA WOWS CROWD WITH KO OVER OLGUIN

In the opening televised bout, Indio, California native Bryan Lua, (10-0, 5 KOs) dominated late notice opponent Diuhl Olguin with fast hands and solid ring generalship in what resulted in a knockout victory. The confident Desert product bruised his opponent up with lead right hands and uppercuts.

Lua cut the ring off well and landed at will against Olguin, who took the punishment well and even caught Lua with a right hand before the bell sounded to end round two. The ringside doctor took a look at a cut on Olguin before round three. The dominance continued in the third frame with Lua landing two straight body shots which slightly lifted Olguin off the canvas.

Another uppercut softened up Olguin late in round five which delighted the hometown crowd. Lua ran towards Olguin to begin the final round and pressed the action, ultimately scoring a stoppage win at 2:03 as Team Olguin decided to throw in the towel.

GUZMAN NOTCHES KNOCKOUT NO. 5 IN FIVE FIGHTS

Middleweight prospect Fabian Guzman, (5-0, 5 KOs) continued his knockout streak with a first-round stoppage over Las Vegas native Corey Cook.

Guzman started out tentative against his left-handed opponent, warmed up midway, then dropped Cook with a flush right hand which dropped Cook to a knee.  A 10-count ensued by referee Raymond Armendariz and Guzman was awarded the knockout at a recorded 2:14 of round one.

PHOENIX NATIVE IMPROVES TO 3-0

In the opening contest of the night Phoenix, Arizona native Juan Estrada impressed against opponent Dyllon Cervantes in a four-round fight.  Estrada, (3-0, 1 KO) threw effective combinations from the outset and worked both the body and the head throughout the bout.

End results of the fight were 40-36 all for Estrada.

DAZN commentators: Beto Duran, Sergio Mora

Fighters in Attendance: WBC Flyweight titlist Ricardo Sandoval, Bektemir Melikuziev  

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