Boxing is back in Boston and it's not a moment too soon. In the past ten years, there have been only two significant fight cards held in the city and both were at the TD Boston Garden.
The UK's Ricky Hatton defeated New Yorker Luis Collazo for the WBA welterweight title in 2006 and then two years ago, a successful pro-am show was put on there as well and featured Danny O'Connor in the main event against Derek Silveira in a regional battle.
Thanks to Al Haymon's revolutionary Premier Champions (PBC) platform, the sweet science was in full effect at the Agganis Arena on Saturday afternoon, May 23 on the campus of Boston University.
Home to the BU Terriers college hockey team, the arena hosted an NBC televised card promoted by DiBella Entertainment and Murphy's Boxing before a small but very enthusiastic crowd.
In the main event, James “Chunky” DeGale (seen above, after his win, in Freeman photo), 29, London, England, 21-1, 14 KOs, 167.2, fulfilled his obsessive dream of becoming the first Olympic Gold Medalist from Great Britain to win a “genuine” world title.
“I'm speechless,” the new champion told me after the fight. DeGale defeated American Olympic Bronze Medalist Andre Dirrell, 31, 24-2, 16 KOs, Flint, Michigan, 167.8, by unanimous decision to win the IBF super middleweight championship in a tactical but relatively entertaining affair. The Brit scored two knockdowns in the second round and used his superior boxing skills to outpoint his opponent over the distance.
“Dirrell showed a lot of heart like a true warrior,” said DeGale. “That second round knockdown was heavy,” DeGale said of the shot that dropped Dirrell. Dirrell had his moments but they were essentially given to him by DeGale in an attempt to set Dirrell up for more of the abuse he put on Dirrell in the second. When I asked DeGale if that was the case, the Londoner confirmed my assessment of his strategy. “Also, he's such a good fighter, I couldn't be careless and make too many mistakes because he's dangerous with that left hand,” he said.
After a slow first round battle of jabs, traps, and counters, DeGale picked up the pace in the second round and dropped Dirrell hard with a smashing left cross to the face. Dirrell hit the mat flat but bounced up fast, only to get sent back down from a follow-up barrage. Dirrell got his legs back in the third but DeGale pinned him in a corner late in the round and hammered his exposed chin with another hard left hand. In the fourth, DeGale slowed his attack but landed a spearing right jab to the face of Dirrell, who struggled from the outside and clinched on the inside whenever DeGale pressed his advantage in close. As the rounds went on, DeGale showed the true essence of boxing. He hit more than he got hit. His defense was tight. His counters were on point. As chants of “Chunky, Chunky” broke out in the sixth, Dirrell looked like a beaten fighter, or at the very least, an extremely frustrated one.
In the seventh, eighth and ninth, DeGale motored around the ring looking to land his big left hand again as he did in the second round. Occasionally he'd plant his feet and let Dirrell tire himself out by punching wildly at his guard. In the tenth, Dirrell responded to “USA, USA” chants with two straight left hands to the chin of DeGale as “Chunky” backed up into the ropes. DeGale seized control in the championship rounds and outboxed Dirrell to punctuate his tactical victory by official scores of 117-109 and 114-112 twice.
From ringside, I scored it 116-110 in favor of DeGale, who told me he agreed with the 114-112 scores, but that the 117-109 score was “a bit too much.”
“He ran from me and they gave it to him,” said a dejected Dirrell after the second loss of his career.
Edwin Rodriguez, Worcester, MA., 27-1, 18 KOs. 176, stopped Craig Baker, Baytown, TX., 16-1, 12 KOs, 175.6, in the third round of a scheduled ten. Both light heavyweights came to the ring in Red Sox baseball jerseys. Baker, an interesting character for sure, wore a Larry Bird shirt to the Friday weigh-in. It featured Bird's upside down image and read “Flip The Bird” across the front. In boxing they say you kill the body so the head will follow but Rodriguez took a different approach, targeting Baker upstairs early in an attempt to open up those exposed flanks for Rodriguez's trademark body punches. In the second round, Baker was starting to feel them as Rodriguez whipped him with long right hands downstairs. Baker stayed pesky on the inside but “La Bomba” was walking through his best punches to land his own. After five consecutive right hands from Rodriguez to the head of Baker, the referee jumped in at 2:22 of the third and called a halt, a surprise only to Baker, who was not punching back.
Baker got into boxing to lose weight. After losing more than 100 pounds in 16 professional wins, he finally lost a fight. “I was pacing myself,” said the winner. “When the referee stopped it, Baker wasn't throwing back. He took my body punches well but they slowed him down. They did what I wanted them to do. It was like chopping down a tree. The accumulation was too much for him.”
Danny O'Connor, Framingham, MA., 26-2, 10 KOs, 147.4, beat up Chris “Gumby” Gilbert, Windsor, VT., 13-2, 10 KOs, 146, registering a fifth round TKO to win the New England welterweight championship close to home. Bull versus matador. Brute versus brains. This is how O'Connor was able to handle the tank-like Gilbert. In the first round, Gilbert charged hard and was merely outboxed. In the second, O'Connor gored the bull with brutal left hands to the gut and Gilbert went down twice in obvious pain. By the fourth, O'Connor was in complete control of the fight and he hit the defenseless Gilbert at will up and down. In the fifth, Gilbert fell again from body punches and the referee put a stop to Gilbert's agony at 1:04.
“Gilbert was tough as nails. I didn't believe his level of skill was at my level. I could've fought down to his level but I stayed skillful. I stayed true to me,” said O'Connor of the victory.
Featherweight Jonathon Guzman, 19-0, 19 KOs, Boca Chica, Dominica Republic, 124.6, stopped Christian Esquivel, 27-7, 20 KOs, Mexico, 123.2, in the corner after five rounds. The undefeated Guzman keeps his knockout streak intact in the last bout of the day.
Heavyweight Danny “Smooth” Kelly, 8-1-1, 7 KOs, Washington DC, 239.8, obliterated Curtis Lee Tate, 7-6, 6 KOs, Memphis, TN., 229.4, with three thudding knockdowns in the first round. The slaughter was wisely waved off by the assigned referee at 1:05.
Middleweight Gary “Spike” O'Sullivan, 21-1, 14 KOs, Cork, Ireland, 159.6, brutalized MelvinBetancourt, 29-2, 23 KOs, Dominic Republic, 159.6, for a scary second round knockout. Sporting a traditional green Irish kilt and bright yellow boxing shoes, O'Sullivan walked his man down and hammered him with lefts and rights before a sweet right hook put Betancourt flat on his back for the count. The pillow-fisted Betancourt had never fought outside of the Dominican Republic and it showed. Time of the KO was 2:46. Said the victorious O'Sullivan afterwards, “Anyone I hit is going to sleep. I want Gennady Golovkin. I'll knock him out.”
Middleweight Immanuwel Aleem, 13-0, 9 KOs, East Meadow, NY., 159.2, knocked out DavidToribio, 21-15, 14 KOs, Dominican Republic, 159.6, at just 0:39 of the first round. A wicked left to the body sent Toribio down in a corner and a follow up right hand to the head as he fell was just the icing on the cake. Toribio was counted out with a grimaced look on his face.
Light heavyweight prospect Edwin Espinal, 6-0, 4 KOs. Providence, RI., 171, defeated Alvaro Enriquez, 5-14-2, Mexico City, Mexico, 170.4, by unanimous decision to stay undefeated. Bouncing on his toes and attacking behind a high guard, Espinal battered his Mexican opponent around the ring like a rag-doll in the first round before reducing his output in the second to choose his shots more carefully. The boom was nearly lowered in the fourth and final round when Espinal scored a hurtful knockdown from a hard right hand to the chops but Enriquez hung in there like a Mexican fighter. Scores: 40-35 from all three judges.
Super featherweight Ryan “Polish Prince” Kielczewski, 23-1, 7 KOs, Quincy, MA., 127.6 scored a first round knockout of Anthony Napunyi, 11-12, 6 KOs, Nairobi, Kenya, 125.4, to get back in the win column after his first professional loss last month to Danny Aquino in Connecticut on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Kielczewski's opponent made the ever menacing throat-slash sign at the weigh-in face off but Kielczewski made him pay for that nonsense with a vicious body attack that sent him down and out at 2:54.
Junior lightweight Logan McGuinness, 23-0-1, 10 KOs, Ontario, Canada, 136.8 decisioned Gerardo Cuevas, 17-14, 15 KOs, Mexico City, Mexico, 142, over six rounds. Cuevas brought a soft abdomen to the ring against McGuiness but that didn't stop him from dropping the Canadian with a soft left jab in the first round. McGuiness responded well by attacking the body of Cuevas who stayed feisty with his jab and busy fists. McGuiness pounded the jelly bellied Cuevas in the third and “Pipino Junior” looked a little gassed in the corner after the assault. The pace slowed considerably in the second half of the bout for both. Scores: 57-56 on all three cards.
Bantamweight Gary “Another” Russell, 2-0, 2 KOs, Washington, DC, 117.2, stopped Brandon Garvin, 0-2, 118.6, Philadelphia, PA in one round. Cornered by current WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr., this Russell made short work of his opponent, dropping him with a right hook along the ropes during an exchange that left Garvin in no condition to continue. The referee appropriately stopped the fight at 1:03 of the first. This was opening bout of the show and the first bell sounded at 1:38 PM.