LEGANES, Spain – The fight between Stefano Zoff and Juan Carlos Diaz Melero had been much publicized in Europe. Not only because the vacant European lightweight title was on the line, but because it was an opportunity to verify the real value of both competitors. Nobody ever doubted the value of Stefano Zoff, one of the best Italian boxers of his time. How can you doubt a boxer who won titles in three weight divisions, the most prestigious ones being the European featherweight and lightweight belts and the WBA world lightweight title? You cannot, but Stefano is 39 years old and got knocked out by Leavander Johnson in his last fight. The question everyone was asking: Does Zoff have what it takes to become a champion again? Juan Carlos Diaz Melero, on the other hand, had a perfect record of 29-0, but had never faced quality opponents. A win against Zoff would have put him in the big time. Zoff was accompanied to the ring by his trainer Elio Tricarico, by super lightweight contender Gianluca Branco, and by their manager Salvatore Cherchi. They got a huge number of whistles (the Spanish version of boos). Juan Carlos Diaz Melero, naturally, got a standing ovation.
The Main Event
In the first round, the fighters moved a lot and threw many punches, landing only a few. In the interval, Elio Tricarico told Zoff to keep up his hands. The second stanza was also a confused brawl. Zoff got his best moments with the infighting. Diaz Melero landed good shots from the outside. When he hit Zoff with a combination, the crowd went wild. The Spaniard started the third round at full force and connected many times. Zoff never looked in danger, landed a few good shots of his own, but was never as effective as his opponent who won the first three rounds. In the fourth round Diaz Melero was even more aggressive, but Zoff wasn’t intimidated: he opened his arms to invite his opponent to brawl. Diaz Melero accepted. At about 1:30 he trapped Zoff in the corner and landed many times. In the fifth, a couple of punches put the Italian off-balance. His cornermen were screaming Attack him! Attack him! but Diaz Melero was a moving target. He also was much faster than Zoff. The sixth round was like the others, with Diaz Melero displaying his entire boxing repertoire. Zoff was effective only with straight rights and lefts. In the interval, Salvatore Cherchi told him to wake up. In the seventh round, the intensity of the brawl reached new heights with the Spanish pugilist dominating. In the eight round, the rhythm kept growing as if the fighters had unlimited energy. Diaz Melero was very effective with his jabs and hooks. Just as he had done previously, he was the aggressor in the final moments. In the ninth round, Diaz Melero took control of the fight; at one point he landed so many unanswered punches that the referee could have, if he chose, declared TKO. Between rounds Cherchi told to his man: You have to try winning. Do it! Zoff tried to follow his advice, but Diaz Melero was too fast and continued to land too many punches. After the end of round ten, the referee Mark Green went to the Italian’s corner, talked to Cherchi, then told Zoff: You are a fantastic champion. You are behind on points. No more. Zoff didn’t complain because he knew he had lost. Juan Carlos Diaz Melero proved to be a great fighter. One of these days, he may even excite American fight fans. (By the way, this fight deserves to be broadcasted by the networks overseas: it would prove to sceptical U.S. promoters that European fighters can brawl and produce a great show.)
Prior to the European title fight, there were other matches. The more meaningful ones are described below.
Javier Castillejo vs. Presente Brito – 8 rounds – Middleweights
Javier Castillejo had 58 wins (39 by KO) and 6 losses. He had won a long list of titles. In the welterweight division he had been Spanish champion. Among super welterweights, he had won the Spanish, European and WBC titles. Venezuelan Presente Brito had a record of 11 wins, 11 losses, 1 no-contest and 3 draws. Theoretically, Castillejo should have won by knockout. In round number one, the boxers studied each other and didn’t land many punches, even though Castillejo hit Brito with a good right hook to end the first. In the second, it was the same story. The only difference was that the Spanish got the job done with a left hook that knocked Brito off-balance. In the third round, the match heated up with both fighters landing good hooks and uppercuts; Castillejo was always the aggressor and even got Brito into a corner where he unloaded several times. In the fourth round, Castllejo dominated Brito, hitting him at will. A couple of times it looked like Castillejo was on the verge of knocking his opponent down, but it never happened. Castillejo started the fifth round throwing a series of straight rights and lefts. In the last minute he forced Brito into a corner and tried, unsuccessfully, to finish him off with hooks and uppercuts. In the sixth round, Castillejo was determined to get a knockout and assaulted Brito ferociously, but only a few of his punches landed. The seventh round was a replay of the sixth, with Castillejo connecting a couple of times. At this point Brito knew he had lost. He just wanted to end the fight standing up. Castillejo, however, had other ideas. He started the final round throwing combinations and connected many times. After about 55 seconds, Castillejo hit Brito with a left hook, followed by a right hook, two left hooks (the first one missed) and another right hook. Brito still didn’t go down. In the final minute, he even hit Castillejo with a right uppercut followed by a left hook. When the ring announcer read the verdict, nobody was surprised: Javier Castillejo was the victor. The crowd was pleased that their favorite fighter was back on the winning track.
Sergio Martinez vs. Tamaz Tskrialashvili – 8 rounds – Super welterweights
Sergio Martinez had a record of 34 wins (16 KOs), 1 loss and 1 draw. He had been Argentine and WBO Latino welterweight champion, WBC Latino and IBO super welterweight champion. The Georgian, Tskrialashvili, had 6 wins and 9 losses. In the first three rounds, both fighters moved a lot and threw many punches. Martinez was more effective and looked like he was trying to open his opponent’s guard to land a knockout punch. The fourth round was so boring that the crowd whistled. Martinez woke up in the fifth round and landed a couple of effective combinations which gave him the boost he needed. In the sixth round he hit his opponent with a right hand followed by a straight left. The referee gave the Georgian a standing 8-count. He continued fighting back, but his cornermen threw in the towel. Tskrialashvili didn’t complain.