More than 5,100 enthusiastic fans were in attendance for Keystone Boxing’s “Battle for Virginia,” which took place at George Mason University in Fairfax on September 17. Matchmaker Chris Middendorf put together an array of highly competitive matches headlined by junior middleweight Jimmy Lange. Hailing from nearby Great Falls, Lange was making his first start since engaging in two bouts on the NBC television reality series “The Contender.”
Not only did this card bring big-time boxing back to Virginia for the first time in years, it also marked the first webcast of a fight card on “TheBoxingChannel.com.” Broadcasting the action from the site was Charles Jay, editor-in-chief of The SweetScience.com, which is affiliated with TheBoxingChannel.com, editor Robert Ecksel, and yours truly, who is a columnist for the site.
The 30-year-old Lange, who is trained by former multi-division champion Buddy McGirt, improved his record to 26-2-1 (18 KO) with an exciting stoppage of the previously undefeated Perry Ballard, now 17-1 (13 KOs), of Martinsburg, West Virginia.
From the first bell, Lange, who sparred about 25 rounds with Arturo Gatti at McGirt’s Florida training facility, peppered Ballard with jabs and occasional one-twos. He continually snapped the extremely hyper Ballard’s head back, and then blasted him to the body with lefts and rights.
Although it was obvious that he was outclassed and out-gunned, no one can ever accuse Ballard, who possesses a master’s degree in safety engineering, of not being game. While he did incessantly complain to the referee, he also continually tried to reach Lange with his vaunted right hand. He did land that punch several times, but it had little effect on the intense and highly motivated Lange.
The first knockdown came in the third round, when Lange finished off a vicious combination of punches with a booming overhand right. In the fourth round, Lange sent Ballard to the canvas once again with a debilitating body blow that came at the end of another volley of punches. Ballard rose from the knockdown with an odd look on his face as he tried to maintain his equilibrium. The referee wisely called a halt to the bout at 2:40 of the fourth round.
“It was great to fight at home again after such a long time away,” said a jubilant Lange. “I think he was hoping I would overlook him so he could land a wild shot, but that wasn’t going to happen. I’m working with Buddy and so many good fighters in Florida, nothing is going to take me away from my game.”
Lange, who lost a close decision to Joey Gilbert in week eight of “The Contender,” was called back as a fan favorite and won a five round decision over Tarick Salmaci. He said that his participation on the reality show was one of the greatest experiences of his life, and he hopes that he can someday battle Gilbert in a rematch.
“I love Joey, but I would fight him right here, right now if I could,” Lange said, the deeply spiritual, married father of three children. “There is no fight that I want more than a rematch with him.”
“I take my hat off to Jimmy,” said the likable Ballard, who, although he makes a nice living as a safety engineer, has no intentions of giving up on his boxing career. “Tonight Jimmy gained my respect as a consummate professional. I think he will continue to succeed and bring more respectability to the game of boxing.”
In the co-feature, Lamont Pearson of nearby Cheltenham, Maryland, won the USBA junior lightweight title with a stunning knockout of Shamir Reyes, who hails from Brooklyn, New York. At age 34, Pearson, who is a postman by trade, knew that a victory against Reyes was of paramount importance for his boxing future. He had already lost one featherweight title shot, and has been plagued by hand injuries for much of his career.
Reyes came to fight in much the same fashion he always does. He is a master of utilizing his entire body as an offensive and defensive weapon, and is very difficult to hit solidly. Pearson finally managed to gain some type of control with a piston-like jab, them leveled Reyes, now 18-4-2 (7 KOs), for the count with a vicious left hook to the body at 2:52 of the sixth round.
“This was a great victory for me, and I know it will lead to bigger things,” said Pearson, whose record now stands at 22-3-1 (12 KOs). “Even though I’m 34, I feel much younger. I’m in the best shape of my career, and am looking forward to what’s next.”
In other bouts: Junior welterweight Kay Koroma of Alexandria, Virginia, made a positive impression in his pro debut by outscoring Terrell Davis, now 0-4, of Washington, D.C.
Welterweight Tim Coleman of Baltimore improved his record to 3-0 (1 KO) by stopping Spencer Harsley, 1-4 (1 KO) of Washington, D.C. Coleman, who has an extensive amateur background, looks like a genuine prospect and is one to watch.
Junior middleweight Jesse Orta of Dallas broke a four bout losing streak by brutally stopping local hero Orazio Robinson of Manassas, Virginia, at 1:56 of the first round. Orta, now 5-5-1 (4 KOs), blamed his recent downslide on some familial tragedies but said he was back on track and that this victory was the impetus for his career rejuvenation. The once lauded Robinson, who was felled twice by jarring right hands, saw his record dip to 5-2-2 (4 KOs).
The entire show will soon be webcast on TheBoxingChannel.com, which can also be accessed via The SweetScience.com.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV