NEW YORK – In 130 years of flackery, boxing promoters and press agents have developed a code language of their own, subliminal messages the ticket-buying public are supposed to subliminally internalize without understanding why.
Calling a boxer “Irish” something or other, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean that the fellow has a drop of Irish blood at all, but that he is Caucasian. If he is a “star-crossed challenger” it means that if he hadn’t had the bad luck to lose more fights than he’s won, he might even have been a contender. And when a boxer is introduced as “a veteran of 50 fights,” rather than by his record, you can usually take that to mean he’s probably 2-48.
Being quick with one’s fists is hardly a bad attribute, but when a heavyweight is called “fast,” it usually means he can’t punch. When the same boxer incorporates the F-word into his nom de guerre, one tends to wonder further.
On the other hand, the boxing world surely knows enough about Fast Fres Oquendo by now that opinions would likely remain unchanged even if he started calling himself Slow Fres. Fighting first for America Presents and then for Don King, he spent several years in well-earned contenderhood, but back-to-back losses in title fights (to John Ruiz at Madison Square Garden last year, and to Chris Byrd at the Mohegan Sun the in 2004) were enough to get him dropped by The World’s Greatest Promoter and dropped by the sanctioning bodies shortly thereafter.
Against Byrd Oquendo had been spectacular in losing a narrow but unanimous decision in a fight many thought he might have won, and he hung in with the rugged Ruiz until the 11th round of their New York bout last year. Still, that his two best career performances both resulted in losses does suggest certain inevitabilities in the future.
Lou DiBella signed the orphaned free agent a couple of months ago, and matched him against former Brazilian cruiserweight champion Daniel Bispo Dos Santos in the main event of DiBella Entertainment’s six-bout Broadway Boxing card at the Manhattan Center Thursday night.
Bispo is nothing if not durable, so it’s hardly surprising that the bout lasted well into the 9th round. Fast Fres controlled the action throughout, and had ample opportunities to display the attribute suggested by his nickname against his southpaw opponent.
“He was awkward, but I became more relentless as the fight went.” said Oquendo. “I needed to get the cobwebs out, but he was a tough and awkward guy. He’d never been stopped before.”
With the New York crowd voicing its displeasure from the third on, attrition had clearly taken its toll by the seventh, when Oquendo actually staggered Bispo with a jab, albeit a full-force jab thrown from the socket of his shoulder. At this point the Brazilian looked to be just hanging on.
By the ninth he was literally hanging on. As Oquendo pressed his attack, Bispo responded with a silly – and downright counterproductive – tactic. He draped his arm over Oquendo’s left shoulder and hung on for dear life, thus allowing Oquendo to hammer away at him with his right.
His right hand might not be the best weapon in Fast Fres’ arsenal, but he was able to do some serious damage with it against a man he knew couldn’t even fight back until he let go of him, which Bispo apparently had no intention of doing.
Mesmerized by this startling development, referee Joe Chiarantano allowed Oquendo to fire away at will, figuring that under the circumstances Bispo probably deserved anything he got.
After Oquendo had landed a dozen or so staggering rights the referee intervened. Chiarantano appeared prepared to administer a standing-8 until he remembered that rule wasn’t in effect, but he did halt action long enough to inform both boxers and the ringside judges that he was taking a point from the Brazilian for holding.
The moment he waved them back into action, Bispo once again grabbed Oquendo in a half-nelson, and that was that. It could as easily have gone into the books as a disqualification instead of a 9th-round TKO, which it was.
Bispo’s record is now 16-3, Oquendo’s 25-3.
“This is the best thing that could have happened to him,” said DiBella. “This guy (Bispo) has never been down. It wasn’t necessarily the best thing from the crowd’s standpoint, but it gave Fres a chance to loosen up and go some rounds.”
“I need another fight,” said Fast Fres afterward. (His promoter said he can have one next month he wishes.)
At a press conference earlier in the week, the promoter had suggested that an Oquendo win would restore Fast Fres to somebody’s Top Ten “in about a week.” Maybe he knows something the rest of us do not, but this didn’t look like win that was going to send anybody’s stock soaring.
But keep an eye on those ratings, folks. We’ll see whether Sweet Lou has as much juice with these guys as he thinks he does.
The co-featured bout saw Brooklyn super-middle Curtis Stevens’ record escalate to 11-0 with a second-round knockout of Flint, Michigan veteran Jose Spearman (24-10-2). The 36-year-old Spearman is no slouch: He’s been in with a few world champions and has been used as a trial horse by contenders working their way up the ladder, and as recently as last November he was brought to Providence to lose to undefeated Joey Spina and battled his way to a draw in a fight he would have undoubtedly won elsewhere.
He was no match for Stevens on this night, though. After a workmanlike first round during which the hometowner was obviously doing his homework, the Brooklyn boxer went to work. Late in the second, Stevens caught Spearman dropping his right as he threw a lazy jab, and caught him right on the jaw with a short but ferocious left hook, and Spearman was counted out with a second left in the round by referee Ricky Gonzalez.
In an All-Caribbean affair, Dominican middleweight Giovanni Lorenzo stayed unbeaten at 19-0 with a 3rd-round TKO of Christopher Henry (19-11) of Bridgetown, Barbados. Lorenzo had already dominated the first two rounds when he trapped Henry against the ropes in the third and cut loose with a barrage of unanswered punches. Belatedly realizing that Henry wasn’t going down simply because the ropes were holding him up, Lorenzo yanked his opponent off the ropes and threw him to the floor in the middle of the canvas. He probably should have been penalized for his amateurish rendition of what should have been a shrewd professional move, but Gonzalez instead started counting.
He didn’t have to finish, though. It was apparent that Henry was all done, and the referee waved it off at 2:35 of the third.
Promoter DiBella apparently has a soft spot for bald, white boxers. He had two of them in the same fight, but they didn’t last long enough to sell much Mister Clean. Washington Hago (2-1), a junior lightweight fighting out of Queens, put Denver’s Cliff Walker (0-4-1) down with a succession of right-hand bombs. Walker made it to his feet to beat Gonzalez’s count, but when he was immediately tagged by another right hand, Gonzalez took him into custody at 1:22. Although nearly a minute and a half remained in the round, nobody argued, least of all Walker.
Brooklyn Opponent Anthony Ottah (1-5-2) earned a draw with unbeaten Georgian Kevin Burnett (2-0-1) when the judges split three ways on the issue: Julie Lederman had Ottah winning 39-37, Ron McNair scored it 39-37 for Perez, leaving the deciding vote to Robert Perez, who had it (not unreasonably, we thought) even at 38-38.
Juan Cabrera, a Dominican middleweight now fighting out of New York, improved to 3-0 by knocking out Brooklynite Anthony Hunter (0-2) in two.
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MANHATTAN CENTER GRAND BALLROOM
NEW YORK CITY
FEBRUARY 16, 2006
HEAVYWEIGHTS: Fres Oquendo, 219, Chicago TKO’d Daniel Bispo, 220, Sao Paolo, Brazil (9)
Kevin Burnett, 290, Augusta, Ga. drew with Anthony Chuma Ottah, 250, New York (4)
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Curtis Stevens, 167½, Brownsville, NY KO’d Jose Spearman, 162¼, Columbus, Ohio (2)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Giovanni Lorenzo, 156¼, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic TKO’d Christopher Henry, 152, Castries, Santa Lucia (3)
Juan Cabrera, 160½, Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep. KO’d Anthony Hunter, 162½, Brooklyn, NY (3)
JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: Washington Hago, 130, Woodside, NY TKO’d Cliff
Walker, 129¼, Denver (1)