“Bob Arum’s Top Rank has set the stage for a showdown with Cuban-American Yuriorkis Gamboa, 17-0 (15), having defended his WBA featherweight title and Juan Manuel Lopez, 28-0 (25) winning the WBO featherweight title at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theatre Saturday night before a packed house.
Gamboa came in at the 126 limit as his challenger #13 contender Rogers “Tiger” Mtagwa, 25-14-2 (18), of Philadelphia and formerly of Tanzania, was only 122 ½ and it showed as they both entered the ring. Mtagwa was coming off an October loss to Lopez in a war for the WBO super bantamweight title and is #10 in their ratings. Indonesia’s Chris John has held the WBA now super WBA title since 2004 with 11 defenses. So why didn’t or isn’t Gamboa and John fighting?
Gamboa came out firing knowing Mtagwa is a slow starter who only gets stronger as when he had Lopez out on his feet in their 12th and final round in October. Mtagwa with the heart of a lion tried his best but had no answer for the quicker and harder punching Gamboa who dropped his opponent near the end of the 1st round with a left hook. The punch didn’t seem to land flush so you knew it was going to be a short night. In the 2nd round a left right combination dropped Mtagwa into the lower rope for the 2nd knockdown in the fight. As he got to his feet he was driven into his own corner when a chopping right hand dropped him on the seat of his trunks. Top referee Steve Smoger wisely stepped in before the gallant challenger suffered any more damage at 2:35 of the 2nd round. Hopefully Mtagwa got a good pay day because taking this fight was not a good move on the part of his promoter and management.
Lopez didn’t have it as easy as Gamboa as he was introduced from the “winners” corner. Seems all 9 winners came out of the red corner Saturday night. WBO champion Steven Luevano, 37-2-1 (15), of LaPuente, CA, was matching Lopez punch for punch and even studding Lopez twice in the 2nd round, once with a jab. In the 3rd round there were good exchanges with Lopez getting the better of them. Luevano was not as fast or the harder puncher of the two, but very game and though skilled, not skilled enough for the popular Lopez. Both southpaws came out in the 7th of this interesting match-up only to have Lopez land a right-left combo dropping Luevano into a neutral corner. When the champion got to his feet he was visibly shaken. Referee Benji Estevees, Jr. quickly called a halt as Luevano got to his feet. He objected to no avail as his title was lost at 0:44 of the 7th round. With Luevano’s two top challengers Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez scheduled for a 4th meeting in May Lopez may have an obligation to the winner. It would not be advisable for him to get in with Gamboa at this stage of his development. The Puerto Rican fans made up the majority of the fans and didn’t exactly cheer Gamboa and booed Luevano. I know of no Cuban’s who have escaped the island to go to Puerto Rico so I gather there is strong opposition between the two countries. The biggest applause of the night went to former champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad who has proclaimed Lopez to be his successor from the island.
New York’s “Irish” John Duddy, 28-1 (18), was given a soft opponent to regain some of his fan base having lost his last fight as he easily disposed of Juan Astorga, 14-4-1 (9), of Lee’s Summitt, MO, starting with a straight right hand causing a delayed knockdown. He followed right up with a left hook to the body that ended it at 1:55 of the 1st right to the delight of his fans as referee Wayne Kelly called a halt in this middleweight 8 rounder. It was announced Duddy would be fighting in Cowboy Stadium on the undercard of Pacquiao-Clottey on March 13th.
In possibly the best fight of the night Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak, 26-1 (17), of Rockaway, impressed as he was much too busy and sharp for his opponent Ishmail Arvin, 15-2-4 (7), of Baltimore, in a 8 round super welterweight match-up. Arvin used his jab effectively in the 2nd round, but after that was pressed throughout by the two handed attack of Wolak. Billy Costello had it 80-72 with John McKaie and Alan Rubenstein seeing it 79-73 as did this writer for Wolak. Competent Gary Rosato was the referee. Arvin was coming off a near 18 month lay-off but looked fit. “Arvin does not always come in shape but he did in this one and Wolak was ready for him,” said Ivan Edwards, Wolak’s manager. The crowd went wild as Wolak draws well in New York and would be an added attraction in the heavily Polish area of Newark.
It looked like Chris Algieri, 10-0 (5), Greenlawn, NY, was about to taste his first defeat as James Hope, 4-4 (4), was brought in from Rock Hill,SC, dealing out plenty of punishment for the first 2 rounds. Algieri seemed bewildered and cut around the right eye. In a complete turnaround starting in the 3rd Algieri came back as Hope wilted until the final 6th round trying to regain his earlier offense. Waleska roldan had it 59-55 while Costello and McKaie had it 58-56 all for Algieri in this super lightweight match-up. Steve Willis served as the referee.
Jorge Diaz, 12-0 (8), New Brunswick, NJ, destroyed Tommy Atencio, 4-4 (2), of Denver, starting with a straight right hand for the first knockdown. A left hook to the liver had Atencio out on the canvas for several minutes at 1:27 of the 1st round with referee Kelly waving it off. Diaz has too much ability not to start stepping it up with his top amateur background.
Brooklyn’s popular Will Rosinsky, 10-0 (6), showed accurate punching power as he had Markas Gonzales, 7-3 (4), Kansas City, KS, eating leather for the entire 4 rounds in this light heavyweight match. His body work was exceptional with uppercuts to the jaw inside. Rosinsky is a 4 time New York Daily News amateur champion. Rosato was the referee.
Long Island’s Tommy Rainone, 12-3 (3) caught his opponent flat footed scoring a 2nd round knockdown as Gerardo Prieto, 6-8-1 (0), of Provo, UT, got to his feet but his frustration caused him to foul throughout the bout as referee Willis had his hands full. This was a 4 round welterweight match.
San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Olympian Carlos Negron, 7-0 (5), used his 6:06 height and 13 inch reach advantage to pepper and keep at bay the wild swinging Garrett Wilson, 7-3 (2), of Philadelphia. A blood splattered and frustrated Wilson never stopped trying for the entire 6 rounds. He may have suffered a broken nose. He rarely went to the body. At 5:09 he kept going for the chin and rarely landed. Negron at 181 should fill out to a full-fledged cruiserweight, though only 21 at present. His jab and combinations to the body were very effective. I watched him win his teams the only fight when USA vs Puerto Rico came to Philadelphia, in 2008. All 3 judges had it 60-54. Wilson’s 4 fight win streak was stopped by this ill advised match-up.
The championship fights were viewed over HBO. Top Rank announced for the remainder of the year $1.00 will come out of every ticket toward the Haiti relief fund.