TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION – Times like these are mixed blessings for Kassim Ouma.
The gifted boxer is once again poised for a junior middleweight championship, and successfully took another step in that direction with an eight-round breakdown of solid Francisco Mora at Desert Diamond Casino.
Still, Ouma’s post-fight press conference turned somber as he spoke of his well documented past, and how it claws at his psyche.
“I miss my grandmother,” said Ouma as he spoke of family left behind after defecting from Uganda, where political and military horrors stole his childhood until the fight game offered an escape.
“She’s going blind. I want her to see where I am and what I’m doing before she loses her sight. I pray for that and to forget things I hope you never see. I pray and I fight and I pray. It’s all I can do.”
It certainly looked like he continues to find refuge in the ring. Mora, 154, 50-10 (34), came to fight, but Ouma, 154, diffused any threat with stinging southpaw combinations and tight defense.
Ouma dug to the body and froze Mora with a looping left that set that bout’s tone and tempo. Ouma quickly piled on the punishment and points. Mora suffers from chronic nosebleeds (wonder why) and Ouma certainly didn’t help.
Ouma dropped him in the second and chipped away at the sturdy Argentine workman, in time with clapping and chants from Ouma’s ringside supporters. Mora got the crowd going with some spirited rushes, but soon his silver/white trunks were painted with the proverbial king crimson.
Ouma avoided big swats and kept his elbow tucked for body armor. Mora managed to get through with a good smack more than once.
Ouma hurt him with a telephone pole jab in the sixth, and by now it didn’t look like Mora could do anything but take it. Ouma continued to pour it on in the seventh, and Mora’s lost cause wasn’t helped when referee Bobby Ferrara took a well-justified point for low blows.
Ouma took points his own way, with resounding wallops. Mora wasn’t done yet, though, and drew admiring whistles from the Latino swarm.
It was a short-lived glory. A left counter splattered Mora, who gamely, barely, beat the count. Ferrara wisely waved it over anyway, at 2:34 of the eighth.
“I followed the rules my trainer set to keep using the jab,” said Ouma. “He was strong but I knew there was not much he could do. I kept showing him the left hand and waited to come over with my right.”
It was a strong showing by Ouma in another jewel of a card at Desert Diamond, featuring a string of dramatic, star-studded stoppages.
David “Destroyer” Lopez, 160, 25-13 (15), stole the show with his own eighth round knockout against stubborn Shay Mobley, 159, 12-6-1 (5), Chicago. The showroom was rockin’ but never hit the now traditional Desert Diamond fever pitch until Lopez, a local hero from nearby Nogales, MX, and Mobley wailed away. Lopez progressively pounded his way to an insurmountable lead, but Mobley made him earn it while the crowd went wild. Too bad it was an off TV fight. Lopez may be the un-mined gem of the Golden Boy stable.
2004 Olympian Vincente Escobedo, 133, 9-0 (9), Woodland, CA, opened the ESPN 2 Friday Night Fights show with a 6th round TKO over out-slicked Jesus Salvador Perez, 132½, 25-12-3 (15), Columbia. Escobedo showed ring maturity beyond his record and ground Perez down. After a barrage to the body forced a weary Perez down, his corner climbed the apron to concede and ref Bobby Ferrara waved it over at 2:53 of the sixth session.
Escobedo didn’t really live up to his “Next Golden Boy” hype, but that kind of touting can become an early burden. Escobedo did show plenty of skill, and has a bright future, golden or not.
Fellow Olympian Rock Allen, 142, 5-0 (5), made short work of willing Mike Walker, 6-7 (5), St. Louis. Allen was scheduled to meet Anthony Ivy, but Ivy “Missed his plane,” according to Arizona Commissioner John Montano.
Walkershowed up, but the outgunned, last minute substitute tried to make a fight of it, but was still “red flagged” as limited opposition on commission papers. Walker did land a couple shots but was down twice before referee Ray Scott correctly halted the mismatch at 2:22 of the opening frame.
There’s not much any designated victim looks capable of at this early stage of Allen's development. He’s trained by his father, Nazeer Richardson, who also happens to train Bernard Hopkins, who was on hand as promoter and informal advisor. Allen has been training with pros like Shane Mosley since his amateur days, and already looks like he’s ready for the next level.
Otis Griffin, 175¼, 11-1-2 (5), Sacramento, immediately overwhelmed Matt Gockel, 174, 9-6 (5), Topeka, KS, for a first round TKO. Griffin, “The Next Great Champ” winner, is quite popular in these parts and he wanted to make up for a lackluster showing his last time here. Mission accomplished.
An entertaining walkout bout was the only fight to go the distance tonight as nearby Tucson’s Praxedis Osuna, 159, 6-1-1, fought to a reasonable four round draw against Tomas Padron, 156¼, 1-2-2 (1), Phoenix. The judges were Joe Garcia, Gerald Maltz, and Francisco Baez.
After the program’s early start, almost everyone in the crowd of approximately 1,300 headed into the crisp evening smiling like they didn’t have a care in the world. To bad the star of tonight’s show couldn’t feel the same way.
For Ouma, the skills are obviously there to achieve “The Dream,” even make it look easy. But it’s still an uphill climb.
“I’ve worked with him before, and he really looks ready now,” said trainer Ronnie Shields.
“If politics and things fall into place the way we want them to he can be fighting for a world title before the year is out,” said promoter Hopkins.
“Praying and fighting,” repeated Ouma, with imploring eyes.
It wouldn’t hurt if everyone said a prayer for Kassim Ouma, to find his way to the sunny side, and for his grandmother to see it. He’s had enough of the rest.