UNCASVILLE, Conn. – It might seem unfair to describe a boxer with a 15-0 record as “underachieving,” but when you note that Elvin Ayala routinely seems to perform at the level of his opposition, the gifted New Haven middleweight demurs.

“I’m always there to do my best in the ring,” says Ayala. “If the other guy doesn’t come to fight, that’s on him.”

Ayala continued his winning ways by eking out a decision over Delaware journeyman Larry Marks in the main event of Rich Cappiello’s six-bout card at the Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday night, and while we thought his performance more dominating than did at least one judge, Steve Epstein, who scored it 95-95, the official result was a majority decision unlikely to enhance Ayala’s advancement in anyone’s rankings.

For the record, the Sweet Science card had it 99-91 Ayala, which was more in line with those of the two judges, Steve Weisfeld (98-92) and Don O’Neil (97-93), who had Elvin on top. It could well be that Epstein chose to reward the opponent for his bravery: Marks fought the last five rounds with blood absolutely gushing from a cut just below his left eyebrow.

After the second Marks had returned to his corner and inflamed an already overwhelmingly pro-Ayala audience by delivering a throat-slashing gesture that seemed to say “May you all lose at the blackjack tables tonight”).

Then in the fifth, Ayala allowed himself to be backed into the ropes, but bounced off with a slashing right hand that ripped Marks’ forehead wide open.

He might as well have hit him with a hatchet. The blood flowed immediately, and while his corner was able to patch the cut between rounds, Ayala repeatedly reopened it, occasioning at least three inspections from the ringside physician, Dr. Michael Schwartz.

The second half of the fight would seem to have become a race against time. Given the severity of the cut, you wouldn’t have bet a nickel at that point that this one was going to go ten rounds, but in the end it did.

Although referee Dick Flaherty closely monitored the wound and seemed tempted to stop it on several occasions, he deferred to the doctor, and the fact that Marks continued to fight back in turn led him to allow it to continue. Before the final round, when Schwartz made his final visit to the corner, Marks growled “I’m not going to stop.”

We took this to be a directive along the lines of “If you want to stop it you’re going to have to do it yourself,” but perhaps Dr. Schwartz shared Epstein’s view of the proceedings. In any case, he allowed the bloodied Marks to come out and fight the tenth.

Marks’ record fell to 28-8 with the loss. His ledger includes a win over one world champion (Charles Murray) and losses on points to two others (Cory Spinks and Six Heads Lewis, the latter in a 2001 WBA title fight), but those were several years and many pounds ago.

“I didn’t underestimate him,” insisted Ayala after a fight that, if nothing else, disproved the old adage that a win is a win. “I felt as though I took [Marks] out of his fight. I knew I had him hurt, but I sort of let him go.”

His record says that Mike Oliver has been fighting professionally for five years, but the 26-year-old Hartford featherweight has been a fixture on the New England boxing scene for a lot longer than that.

As a 9-year-old amateur Oliver regularly performed in exhibitions preceding the New England Golden Gloves championships (“When he sat down between rounds, his feet didn’t even touch the canvas, and [trainer] Johnny Duke used to have to lift him off the stool,” recalled Oliver’s present cornerman John Scully), and it is reckoned that Mikey-Mike might have participated in as many as 300 amateur bouts, only half of them officially recorded.

In Saturday night’s co-feature, Oliver was matched against Florida journeyman Terry Lantz. Lantz was coming off a mild upset of then 10-1 Allen Litzau in New Jersey last month, and hoped to turn the tables against yet another hometowner

It quickly became apparent that this was not going to be Lantz’s night. Oliver isn’t a hard puncher, but he is blindingly quick and able to land astonishing combinations while simultaneously avoiding retribution.

For seven frustrating rounds Lantz gamely chased after him, only to be repeatedly tattooed for his trouble, and the closest he came to landing a damaging blow of his own was a first-round rabbit punch that drew an admonition from referee Eddie Claudio.

Oliver is a superb counterpuncher, and on this night his most effective tactic came when he repeatedly allowed Lantz to attack his right glove with his face. By the eighth Lantz had a badly swollen left eye and had simply been worn down by the accumulation of punches, and when Oliver trapped him against the ropes to land an unimpeded barrage of seven or eight unanswered punches, Terry’s head was swiveling around like a speed bag. Referee Eddie Claudio halted the bout at 1:37 of the round.

Oliver is now 13-0. Lantz, now 10-6-1, refused the stretcher that was brought to the ring and walked out under his own steam, but was subsequently transported to Backus Hospital in Norwich for observation.

With former John Ruiz manager Norman Stone and New England legend Micky Ward in his corner, unbeaten Lowell (Mass.) light-heavyweight Joe McCreedy was on the way to sending his highly vocal cheering section home happy when he battered Iowan Jeffrey Osborne from the outset. A minute into the fight, Osborne was reeling, and desperately adopted an emergency game plan, moving into close quarters where he hoped to find refuge from McCreedy’s wider punches and get in a few short ones of his own      

This produced an almost inevitable clash of heads, opening a severe cut to McCreedy’s right eye, and Claudio stopped the fight on the advice of the ringside physician. Under Tribal regulations, had half the scheduled rounds (in this case, two) been completed, the result would have gone to the cards, but since they had not, the issue was instead declared moot. McCreedy is now 5-0-1, Ozzy 2-1-2.

Stoughton (Mass) cruiserweight Chris McInerney improved to 4-0-1 with a workmanlike performance in his four-rounder with former Massachusetts state champion John Rainwater. Rainwater, now 10-13, was cut above the left eye in the final stanza. All three ringside judges, as did the Sweet Science, scored it  40-36.

For three minutes it looked as though Boston cruiserweight Carlos Lovato might have bitten off more than he could chew for his pro debut against DeMarcus Clark. Clark, a sophomore running back at Texas Southern University, had been the all-time rushing leader at Booker T. Washington High in Shreveport, and for a while he looked to be headed for another 200-yard game.

At the bell Clark charged into Lavato’s chest like he was hitting a blocking sled, and by keeping the action at close quarters was able to use his strength and leverage to inflict some damage on the bigger man.  By the end of the first Lavato was bleeding from a cut below his left eye and sported a mouse under the right.

But by the time a clearly winded Clark broke the huddle for the second, the tables were completely turned. Able to utilize his jabbing range, Lovato landed a succession of left-right combinations to drive his weary opponent to the ropes, and once he had him there he landed an unimpeded succession of three sledgehammer rights to the body before putting him down with a big right to the head. Claudio stopped it without a count at 1:12 of the round. Clark is now 1-1, but football season is only a few months away.

The card had been configured for seven bouts, but South Boston middleweight Matt Ryan was prevented from making his pro debut because his medical paperwork was incomplete, and David Johnson, who was to have provided the opposition for Angel Camacho of Providence, was a no-show both at the weigh-in and the day of the fight.

Cappiello’s matchmakers managed to cobble together a fight between the remaining opponents, both of whom were previously unrated, and who by Saturday had become reasonably close in weight. (Louisiana debutante Phillip Lars had scaled 152 Friday night, but by the time he was reweighed for Camacho Saturday he was 156¼.)

The inexperienced Lars apparently hoped to get lucky, and came out of his corner emulating a windmill with a rapid-fire retinue of wild lefts and rights. Reasonably supposing that Lars would have to come up for air eventually, Camacho allowed this propeller to spin for a minute or so, and then at the first hint of a pause stepped in and decked the Louisianan with a left hook.

Over the next half-minute Lars went down two more times, the third from a right-left-right combination, all of which landed, leading Dan Schiavone to rescue Lars at 1:28 of the round.

The June 17 card will be televised via tape-delay, primarily in the New England and New York cable markets, as well as by FoxSportsNet International.

The Mohegan Sun will host a pair of Top Rank cards next month: Featherweights Steve Luevano and Cristobal Cruz headline Bob Arum’s July 21 Telefutura show, with undefeated Juan Manuel Lopez performing (vs. TBA) in the co-feature. Unbeaten middleweight Kelly Pavlik will meet former WBO Bronco McKart on a card that will also feature Philadelphia super-middle Anthony Thompson.

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MOHEGAN SUN ARENA
UNCASVILLE, Conn.
June 17, 2006

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Elvin Ayala, 160¾, New Haven, Conn. dec. Larry Marks, 161¾, New Castle, Del. (10)

Angel Camacho, 161, Providence, RI TKO’d Phillip Lars, 152, Shreveport, La. (1)     

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Chris McInerny, 196½, Stoughton, Mass. dec. John Rainwater, 199½, Worcester, Mass. (4)

Carlos Lovato, 195¼, Boston, Mass. TKO’d DeMarcus Clark, 183, Shreveport, La. (2)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Joe McCreedy, 169¾, Lowell, Ma. TD with Jeffrey Osborne, 171¾, Davenport, Iowa (1)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Mike Oliver, 124, Hartford, Conn. TKO’d Terry Lantz, 125, West Palm Beach, Fla. (8)