Dueling Fight Cards Are Good and Bad for Long Island

THE HAUSER REPORT — It was a good night for the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island in New York but a bad night for fighters from Long Island. That in a nutshell summarizes the fight cards that were televised on July 15 by HBO and FOX.

Seanie Monaghan and Joe Smith are “throwback fighters.” Each man grew up on Long island and still lives there. In the 1940s, they would have been neighborhood fight-club headliners and local heroes. And they would have been fighting each other, as they did ten years ago when Monaghan lost a decision that could have gone either way to Smith in the finals of the light-heavyweight novice division of the Golden Gloves.

Instead, on Saturday night, they were in separate cities in separate bouts. Monaghan on FOX against Marcus Browne at the newly-renovated Nassau Coliseum. And Smith on HBO at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

Saturday marked the first sports event at the Nassau Coliseum since it reopened in April after a two-year renovation. It was also the first fight card there since Mike Tyson knocked out Steve Zouski in 1986.

Monaghan (28-0, 17 KOs) was matched against Marcus Browne (19-0, 14 KOs).

Seanie started boxing late. Now 35 years old, he has paid his dues and done everything that trainer Joe Higgins has asked of him over the past seven years. But he’d never fought a quality opponent in the pros.

“I’m lucky,” Monaghan said as fight night approached. “I’ve fought in some pretty cool places. Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Radio City Music Hall, Foxwoods, the MGM Grand and Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, the big arena at Madison Square Garden. Up until now, The Theatre at the Garden has been my favorite. I fought there in the finals of the Golden Gloves, which was my first taste of the bigtime. And I’ve fought there six times as a pro, so it feels like home. But Nassau Coliseum is ten-minutes from my gym and twenty minutes from my home. I can see the Coliseum becoming a new home for me.”

Browne didn’t care about geography. Now 26, he’d represented the United States as a light-heavyweight at the 2012 London Olympics where he lost in the first round to Australian Damien Hooper. His record stood at 19-and-0 with 14 KOs. He’d been groomed from the start of his professional career as a “prospect” and viewed Monaghan as a stepping stone.

Seanie was aware that some people labeled him as little more than a white Irish guy from Long Island who could sell tickets. For the first time in his pro career, he would be entering the ring as an underdog.

“That just adds fuel to the fire,” Seanie warned.

One week before the fight, Monaghan downloaded a photo of Browne to use as the screensaver on his iPhone. “After Saturday, I’ll put the picture of my kids back up,” he promised.

Browne has good physical gifts but his heart has been questioned. Monaghan’s pre-fight strategy was straightforward. “My job is to turn this into a battle of wills, a grinding kind of fight,” he said.

Talent versus heart.

Seanie knew coming in that the early rounds would be hard. But he didn’t know they’d be as hard as they were.

Speed kills. Monaghan was a sitting duck for everything that Browne threw at him, and Browne threw every punch in the book. A straight left that landed high on the forehead dropped Seanie in the first minute of round one. A low blow from Marcus halfway through the opening stanza that referee Steve Willis correctly called gave Seanie time to recover. But round two was more of the same. A right hook followed by a barrage of punches had Monaghan in trouble again, and Willis stopped the carnage. The CompuBox stats were 42-to-9 in Browne’s favor.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Joe Smith was a 2-to-1 favorite over Sullivan Barrera.

Smith (23-1, 19 KOs), age 27, moved onto the radar screen last year with knockout victories over Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. He’d been stopped early in his career after suffering a broken jaw against Eddie Caminero (a career 7-and 9 fighter, who lost six fights in a row after beating Smith). But that was in the past.

The 35-year-old Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) lost a 12-round decision to Andre Ward last year. His most notable victory was a 2015 knockout of Karo Murat.

Smith-Barrera was marked by spirited, mostly one-way action. Joe’s moment of glory came in round one (which he was losing) when a left hook to the forehead thrown from an awkward angle put Barrera on the canvas. But Sullivan soon found a home for his uppercut and took Joe to school, helped by the fact that Smith has good power but also has trouble setting up his punches. The final CompuBox numbers were a lopsided 187-to-61 with the judges scoring the fight 97-92, 97-92, 96-93 in Barrera’s favor.

In the other two HBO fights, Jezreel Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs) barely defended his WBA 130-pound belt on a 96-92, 94-93, 94-94 majority decision over Robinson Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs). Their bout was cut short by an ugly gash suffered by Castellanos under his right eye as the result of an accidental clash of heads in round ten.

Then 25-year-old Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) cruised to a 120-109, 119-108, 116-111 win over 33-year-old Takashi Miura (31-3, 24 KOs) in a WBC 130-pound title fight.

Those bouts took place in Inglewood after two more slugfests on Long Island.

When last seen in New York, Artur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) was being scraped off the canvas at Barclays Center after being knocked out by Deontay Wilder. In his only other Big Apple outing, he’d been knocked out by Bryant Jennings.

Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Kownacki had fashioned a 15-0 (12 KOs) record against mediocre opponents and wanted to show that he’s more than a club fighter.

Szpilka, had been out of action for eighteen months and looked flat from the start. At 225 pounds, he appeared to be in shape but didn’t fight like it.

In a battle of Polish-born heavyweights, Kownacki, as is his custom, plodded forward aggressively from the opening bell. He knocked Szpilka down in the fourth round and was beating Artur around the ring when referee Arthur Mercante stopped the slaughter.

The main event on FOX matched 34-year-old Robert Guerrero 33-5-1 (19 KOs) against Omar Figueroa (26-0-1, 18 KOs), who’s seven years Robert’s junior.

Guerrero collected an array of belts as he moved from 126 to 147 pounds. But he has now lost in five of his most recent seven outings. Three of these losses were to Floyd Mayweather, Keith Thurman, and Danny Garcia. But Robert has also lost to David Peralta and Gamaliel Diaz. His best days are in the past. He‘s still a tough out, but he’s an out.

Figueroa is a crowd-pleasing fighter who gets hit too much and has benefited in the past from home state refereeing and judging in his native Texas. Prior to facing Guerrero, Omar hadn’t fought in nineteen months, in part because of chronically injured hands.

Figueroa-Guerrero was contested at 147 pounds, although Figueroa says that his best weight is 140. It was a spirited, in-close, action fight that at times resembled a barroom brawl.

Whatever Guerrero once had, he doesn’t have it anymore. Round one was his. Then, in round two,  Figueroa turned things around with a huge left uppercut that dropped Robert for a count of nine. Guerrero came back firing hard but was knocked down twice more in the stanza. Only the absence of a three-knockdown rule and the bell saved him.

It was a short reprieve. Two more knockdowns in round three ended matters.

Figueroa is a personable young man who’s articulate in two languages, not just bilingual. More importantly insofar as boxing is concerned, he showed an impressive inside attack albeit against an aging fighter who stood right in front of him.

As for Guerrero, it’s time for Robert to think seriously about retiring.

Photo credit: Ryan Greene PBC

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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