Night of Knockouts!
Ringside by Jacob Chavez
Photos by John Booz
Oscar De La Hoya’s, Golden Boy Promotions and Dominic Pesoli’s, 8 Count Production presented an explosive night of boxing action, Friday at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. The fights were televised on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” and had fans in attendance enthralled with knockout action.
The main event featured WBO #3/WBA #7 junior featherweight Antonio Escalante’s (20-2, 13 KOs) destruction of a very game, but outmatched Gary Stark Jr. (22-3, 8 KOs) in just three rounds.
Escalante started off in a pretty aggressive manner, as he took the fight to Stark right away and looked to pepper him with combinations to the head. Stark showed impressive skills and managed to catch most of the onslaughts with his guard and, at times, countered well. Midway into the opening stanza, it was very apparent that the bigger Escalante had little respect for Stark’s punching ability, as he looked to mow through him with power punches. Stark made the El Pasoan pay for his eagerness by connecting with a hard counter right to the head, followed up with a left hook midway into the round. During the closing seconds, Escalante pinned Stark in the corner and unleashed a flurry of damaging shots.
In round two, Escalante continued to unload to the head and body. To his credit, Stark used good footwork to get out of range during several exchanges and had the presence of mind to respond with his own assaults after Escalante had connected with his. Having some success with his counters midway into the second, Stark’s confidence increased and he began taunting Escalante. Stark then finished off the round favorably, as he, again, countered to the head with a hard left-right combination. Escalante simply nodded at Stark as the bell sounded.
This would be Stark’s last rally, as moments into the third round, he was tagged by a stiff left hook to the head. Now looking to set it up again, Escalante feigned a right to the body and threw the left upstairs. This proved to be effective when, a minute into the round, Stark found himself on the receiving end of another left hook to the head and careened to the canvas in very bad shape. The gutsy fighter got up and looked towards Escalante, who was looking out to the fans with his hands raised. Angered by this, Stark shouted expletives at Escalante while Referee Gerald Scott continued with the count. The end came immediately after, as Escalante charged at Stark and only needed to throw two more punches: a left hook and a right to the head. Stark again went crashing to the canvas badly hurt and the fight was waved off.
Moments later, Stark walked out of the ring very upset and if getting badly KOed wasn’t bad enough, the largely Mexican crowd booed and heckled him on his way out. Stark let this get to him and almost charged at one of the fans, needing to be restrained by security.
The end came at 1:31 of round three.
Jacobs destroys Varela
In the co-feature super middleweight Daniel Jacobs (15-0, 14 KOs) needed less than two rounds to destroy a seasoned pro in Jose Varela (22-6, 15 KOs).
Each combatant looked to establish a jab early. Jacobs, however, showed the much quicker hands and increased his punch output with quick combinations as the opening round progressed. Looking to keep Jacobs at bay, Varela too started throwing more combinations with a minute left. But one could sense the lanky Varela was not at ease with Jacobs’ effective assaults and lacked a game plan to negate the young, charging fighter. They both looked to impose their will as the second started, but Jacobs was the more daring and aggressive, as he risked getting countered while unloading on the inside. Looking to keep the fight at a comfortable range, Varela again focused on the jab. But his efforts were futile, as Jacobs again charged at him with a short burst of punches to the head that ended with a straight right. Varela went limp and folded onto the canvass in obvious pain.
Referee John O’Brien immediately stopped the action. The time was 1:29.
Wilders makes quick work of Rabotte
Olympic heavyweight bronze medalist Deontay Wilder (4-0, 4 KOs) made quick work of journeyman Joseph Rabotte (3-6, 1 KO), dropping him three times before the fight was stopped by Referee Celestino Ruiz.
Rabotte looked to bully the slick Wilder and rushed him at the sound of the bell. His game plan was to use offense as his defense and try to overwhelm Wilder, but the strategy failed, as a counter right dropped Rabotte in the center of the ring. He got up only to be dropped again by a left-right to the head. The brave Rabotte looked to make one final effort by getting up and attacking Wilder once more. But he was on shaky legs and a final right to the head put him down hard for the last time. It took Rabotte several minutes to get up and walk under his own power but fortunately, he stepped out of the ring unassisted and appeared coherent.
The end came at 2:33 of round one.
Popoca decisions Hamel
Welterweight Ivan Popoca (10-0-1, 7 KOs) had all he could handle in Sebastian Hamel (10-18-1, 1 KO), as he fought hard for six rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Both fought in the left-handed stance, but showed very different styles. Hamel looked to counter throughout and used good footwork. He had quicker hands than Popoca, but was too conservative with his punches most of the fight. Popoca showed true grit and constantly looked to pressure and walk his opponent down. Popoca was at a disadvantage from the start as moments into the fight, an accidental clash of heads opened a cut at the hairline. There were no knockdowns in the fight but there were plenty of spectacular exchanges.
Popoca was rocked in the fifth after eating a quick three punch combination to the head. Hamel, too, was hurt in the final round after a hard left hook to the head put him on the defensive and on survival mode.
The judges scored it 59-55, 58-56 and 60-54, all for Popoca.
Perez KOs Howell
2008 Chicago Golden Gloves champion Noe Perez (2-0, 2 KOs) needed just 1:46 to take out Ronnie Howell (1-2, 0 KOs) in a featherweight bout.
Howell looked to like a serious threat early on, as he showed very fast hands, but it took just one stiff right cross to discourage him. After getting rocked, Howell was rushed but Perez, who accidentally stepped on his foot. Howell went down and refused to get up. He was then booed after the replay showed no other punch landing besides the right to the head. The time was 1:46.
Martinez slugs it out with De La Cruz
In a wild slugfest, lightweight Let Martinez (14-12, 6 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Oscar De La Cruz (5-6, 2 KOs).
Both fighters showed good heart but their skills were very limited, as they smothered each other and clinched excessively throughout. The cleaner and straighter punches were landed by Martinez. The judges scored 39-37 twice and 40-36.
Ramiro Carrillo (1-0, 1 KO) of the lightweight division made his first professional outing a successful one against Steve Hall (0-2). Hall managed to pop Carrillo to the head early on with a series of jabs and counter rights. And it looked as though Carrillo was taken aback by Hall’s power, but he turned the tables and surprisingly for a fighter in his first pro fight, targeted the body. Hall ate several body shots and bent over in agony. Referee Celestino Ruiz stopped the fight after Hall showed no interest of continuing. The time was :34 of round one.
Johnson wins over Umohette
In somewhat of a slow paced fight, heavyweight Theron Johnson (2-2, 0 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Enobong Umohette (0-1). Johnson was the busier of the two and showed slightly better schooling than his opponent. All three judges score the bout the same, 39-37.