Saturday Recap: A Smashing Upset in Chicago; a Bodacious Ladies Day in Venezuela

Bodacious Ladies Day – June 18 wasn’t a particularly busy day for boxing by the standards of a Saturday, but there were several notable events that loom large going forward. Joe Smith Jr’s shocking first round knockout of Andrzej Fonfara has the boxing world buzzing and the groundbreaking all-female card in Venezuela was an artistic and commercial success.

For Andrzej Fonfara, the match with the unheralded Smith was a steppingstone to a rematch with WBC World light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. But Smith, a Long Island construction worker, spoiled the soup. He smashed Fonfara to the canvas with a huge overhand right shortly after the midway point of the opening round and while the Warsaw-born Fonfara beat the count, he was a cooked goose. A flurry of punches led to a second knockdown, whereupon the referee mercifully stopped the fight.

Joe Smith Jr. is a proud member of Local No. 66 of the General Building Laborers Union. Some of his co-workers watched the fight at the union hall in the town of Melville where a party was wrapped around the NBC telecast. The mood was undoubtedly euphoric. Before the fight, sportswriter Greg Logan of Newsday wrote that Smith’s common name was fitting because he has an “everyman” story that harks to James J. Braddock, the day laborer who won the heavyweight title in 1935.

Smith was 21-1 going in, but was taking a big jump up in class. His victory came less than 24 hours after his stablemate Cletus Seldin advanced his record to 19-0 with a first round knockout of Jesus Selig. It was a big weekend for pale-faced boxers from Long Island’s Suffolk County.

The Fonfara-Smith match was part of a 9-bout Premier Boxing Champions card that included a WBA 122-pound title match between Juan Carlos Payano and Rau’Shee Warren who avenged a narrow defeat to Payano by winning a majority decision. For more highlights from Chicago, check out Miguel Iturrate’s ringside report on The Boxing Channel.

The ladies on the female card in Venezuela were well-matched. Five of the seven fights went the full distance. The TKOs were scored by Costa Rican super welterweight Hanna Gabriels and Venezuelan welterweight Ogleidis Suarez. Both ladies are celebrities in their native countries.

Gabriels (16-1-1, 11 KOs) scored a third round TKO over Uruguay’s Katia Alvarino. Suarez (21-3-1, 9 KOs) likewise won by TKO3, putting away Columbia’s Yarley Cuadrado. In other bouts sanctioned for WBA World female titles, Argentina’s Yesica Bopp won a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Nancy Franco to claim the light flyweight title, Venezuela’s Mayerlin Rivas scored a split decision over Spain’s Melania Sorroche to claim the bantamweight title, and the super flyweight title remained vacant when the bout between Peru’s Linda Lecca and Venezuela’s Carolina Alvarez ended in a draw.

Hanna Gabriels left the ring sporting two belts as she was the defending WBO 154-pound champion and was also competing for the vacant WBA diadem. Asked to judge her performance, Gabriels said “I haven’t seen the fight. I’m hoping I did half as good as how I felt. I’m happy I was able to win cleanly. It was truly an honor to be involved in this historic event.” Where she goes from here is uncertain, but only one weight class separates Gabriels from undefeated (28-0) Cecilia Braekhus and a match between them would attract considerable interest, taking female boxing up another notch.

In other Saturday fights of note:

Yet another WBA World female title was contested in Tijuana where Anabel Ortiz successfully defended her minimumweight title with an eighth-round stoppage of long-in-the-tooth Jolene Blackshear. Also on that card, super middleweight Joe Uzcategui, who is line to fight James DeGale, improved to 25-1 (21) with a third round stoppage of journeyman Derrick Findley. Uzcategui, a Venezuelan now residing in Tijuana, turned heads in his previous bout when he annihilated the previously undefeated Julius Jackson who was eliminated in the second round.

Former WBC World featherweight champion Jhonny Gonzalez upped his ledger to 61-10 (51 KOs) with a 10th round stoppage of San Diego’s Christopher Martin, now 29-8, at Toluca, Mexico. The hard-punching Gonzalez is best remembered for his shocking first round knockout of Abner Mares.

Thomas Dulorme, who fights out of Puerto Rico, returned from a 14-month layoff with a third round TKO over Mexico’s Jesus Gurrola at Albacete, Spain. Dulorme was stepping down in class after opposing Terence Crawford in his previous bout. Also on that card, Aik Shakhnazaryan, a 22-year-old Russian super lightweight, improved to 18-2 (9 KOs) with a fourth round stoppage of Mexico’s Daniel Ruiz.

At the Meadows Racetrack and Casino on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Cleveland bantamweight Antonio Nieves (16-0-1, 8 KOs) remained undefeated with a 10-round unanimous decision over Oscar Mojica. Nieves had one-eye cocked at the Payano-Warren match playing out in Chicago with designs on fighting the winner.

Bodacious Ladies Day