It’s a cliché (which is our theme this week apparently) but the greatest thing about boxing is that fights aren’t won or lost on paper. While it’s always great to watch the expected happen – it’s even better when something surprises you, and that’s exactly what happened when CES Boxing presented “Brace for Impact” from the Fox Den at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT.
Had you told me heading into “Brace for Impact” that four of the fights on the card would end in knock outs – but neither Tony Grano nor David Bauza would score a stoppage I would’ve said you were crazy. If you told me that Mike “Machine Gun” Oliver (23-2, 8 KO’s) would get a third round knock out I would’ve had you committed to an asylum. Yet there I was sitting on press row – mouth agape as referee Johnny Callas administered a ten count to an unresponsive Kermin Guardia (37-12, 21 KO’s) giving Oliver a knockout victory.
This isn’t meant as a knock on Oliver (though I’ll admit to knocking Oliver in the past) but the truth is that the last time Mike Oliver scored a straight knock out in a professional fight…well that analogy doesn’t work because Mike Oliver had never knocked a fighter out before as a professional. Hell it had been four years since his last stoppage victory so you can understand why I’d be more then a little surprised to see it happen on this night. For Oliver the victory is another step towards re-establishing his career, something that seemed unlikely a year ago as Oliver was coming off back to back third round TKO loses and a no decision.
It wasn’t just Oliver who scored an unforeseen knockout as “The World Kid” Sadam Ali (5-0, 3 KO) also ended his night early with a devastating third round (1:32) knock out of Jose Duran (6-5-2, 3 KO). Ali controlled the fight for all three rounds but his sharp jab and furious combinations took their toll in the third round when Ali landed a stinging right followed by a vicious (brought to you by the adjective hut) left hook that crumpled Duran and gave Ali the “Knockout of the Night” award. Referee Joe Lupino administered the ten count for Duran but he could’ve administered a one hundred count and it wouldn’t have been long enough for Duran to continue the fight. After the bout Ali was all smiles as the 2008 U.S. Olympian admitted that he has continued to get stronger with every fight chalking it up to getting older and growing more. I have to admit that this was the best Sadam Ali that I’d ever seen and if he adds power to his already lightning quick hand speed Ali may give his 2008 Olympic teammates a run for their money as the brightest pro prospect in the group. By winning in impressive fashion Ali also raises his own stock as “The World Kid” has yet to sign with a promotional team, telling me after this fight that he wants to establish a name for himself so that every promoter out there is looking at him and realizes that he’s not just a flash in the pan but a true world championship caliber fighter. I know that after this performance I imagine that the Ali home phone will be ringing off the hook with some enticing offers for a 21 year old, lightning quick fighter who seems to be developing some knockout power.
While the undercard might have provided the knockouts it was the main event of the evening that provided the most entertainment – though not for the reason that you’d like. Tony “TNT” Grano (17-1-1, 13 KO) coming off a career highlight victory over at the time unbeaten Travis Kauffman on Showtime avenged his lone career loss with a 10 round unanimous decision victory over Mark “Oak Tree” Brown (15-3, 7 KO) in a fight that was completely lopsided until Brown caught Grano with an overhand right haymaker in the 10th round and sent Grano stumbling to the canvas and almost out of the ring. Grano was able to gather himself and survive the tenth round though after the fight he seemed a bit loopy and didn’t speak to the media. The fight was controlled by Grano for 9 of the 10 rounds and Brown seemed to have no problem with that, putting up almost no offensive production for the majority of the fight (until the final round) and seeming content to lose round while mugging Grano.
Brown turned the bout until a WWE style attraction, spending more time jawing at Grano, playing to the crowd and throwing elbows/headbutts/forearms then doing any actual boxing. The 42 year old Brown yelled at the official, at the ringside fans and at Grano every chance he got and seemed to reveal in the jeers being tossed at him from the crowd. At one point the crowd was so riled up by Brown that I told the writer sitting next to me that if Brown somehow pulls off a win people will riot — it really was that tenuous a situation. Brown was Hulk Hogan when he joined the nWo levels of hated and I’m not even joking (much). Brown did success in catching Grano though and probably could have won the fight had he been able to throw more punches after the knockdown but nobody will ever accuse Mark Brown of being to in shape and he seemed gassed after two more haymakers missed their mark. Grano was able to avenge his lone career loss, and picked up the all important (sarcasm!) WBF All American heavyweight championship which should give him some leverage to move onward and upward towards a North American heavyweight trinket title fight possibly with Derric Rossy in he not too distant future.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the night was David Bauza (4-0, 3 KO), the Puerto Rican born middleweight who fights out of Hartford, CT. Bauza had a large cheering section of Puerto Rican flag waving girls wearing Bauza tee shirts, and he also had the luxury of not having a bus full of his fans stuck in traffic (like Sadam Ali). Bauza however struggled with Erix Quinteros (2-4, 1 KO) who proved to be a granite chin kid – taking plenty of strong shots from Bauza but never going to the mat. At one point it appeared that Bauza had Quinteros in trouble when he landed consecutive left hooks to the head but as Bauza moved in to try and close the show he slipped and that gave Quinteros just enough time to recoup. Quinteros found himself with the upperhand in the third round when he caught Bauza with a straight right that staggered the unbeaten prospect, but Bauza was able to survive and pick up the majority decision (38-38, 39-37, 40-36). For Bauza this fight will be a learning experience – he may have bought into his own hype a little too much. Fundamentally he fights like someone with almost no amateur experience, and he has many holes that a more experienced fighter would exploit. I still see bright things in the future for Bauza but hopefully he takes this difficult test to heart and works on some of the glaring mistakes that he made in this fight.
In other undercard action Manuel Antonio Lopes (5-0-2, 1 KO) and Greg McCoy (0-1-1) fought to a four round majority draw (38-38, 38-38, 39-37 Lopes) in a back and forth fight. McCoy had Lopes hurt and staggered in the fourth round and might have stopped the show if Lopes hadn’t done a good job getting into a defensive shell and tying up in the corner. Also on the undercard heavy handed Long Island, NY light heavyweight Joe Smith Jr. (3-0, 3 KO) continued his streak of making quick work of opponents with a first round knock out (0:43) of Carlos Adams with a right hook to the temple at which point the referee told Adams to “stay down.” In the opening bout of the evening Edwin Soto (3-0, 2 KO) busted open Joey Ortega in the first round and scored a referee stoppage victory in the 2nd (2:31) as Ortega was left bloodied and beaten in a really one sided affair that saw Soto dominate from the opening bell with speed, power and movement.