by Gautham Nagesh
When boxing is done right, few spectacles are more thrilling. ESPN’s Friday Night Fights did it right last night, matching four undefeated prospects in a pair of bouts designed to separate the contenders from the pretenders. And the fighters delivered, or at least half of them did, from the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Dominican featherweight Javier Fortuna (above) blew out Cleveland’s Yuandale Evans, handing “Money Shot” his first loss in the opening round of a matchup of southpaws at 130 lbs. World-rated Ukranian light heavyweight Ismayl Sillakh wasn’t so fortunate, as he allowed San Diego-based Russian Denis Grachev to hang around long enough to rally for a stunning, come-from-behind stoppage in the 8th round.
by Gautham Nagesh
This weekend’s boxing schedule is fairly packed, but the headliner in our view is clearly the man you see above. That’s Maryland heavyweight Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, one of the local fighters we’ve been following since Stiff Jab’s inception. Mitchell fights Chazz Witherspoon on Saturday night at in Atlantic City, and as usual we’ll be ringside to bring you all the action. By now the rest of the boxing world has caught up to the fact that Mitchell is the best heavyweight prospect America has to offer, unless you really think Tony Thompson or Chris Arreola can dethrone a Klitschko.
The former Michigan State linebacker silenced many of the questions about his late conversion to boxing with his December destruction of Timur Ibragimov on HBO. Since then, the media conversation about Mitchell has shifted from his past on the gridiron to his future inside the ropes. Seth’s natural athletic talent and work ethic have enabled him to pick up pugilism at a terrific pace, and his future prospects are aided by the fact heavyweights traditionally take longer to develop. At 29, Mitchell is now widely viewed as a future challenger for the world heavyweight title, potentially within the next 18 months.
Bringing the heavyweight crown back to America is a tall task, and would require subduing Wladimir Klitschko at a minimum. But doing so could make Mitchell the biggest name in boxing since Oscar de la Hoya hung up his trunks. None of that is possible if Mitchell loses to Witherspoon tomorrow night, which is why Seth sounded so focused when we spoke to him last week. Witherspoon has only lost at the very top level, so he will bring more experience and much greater amateur pedigree to Boardwalk Hall.
Javier Fortuna photo by Gautham Nagesh for Stiff Jab
by Dr. Octagon, J.D.
MASHANTUCKET, Conn.—Mrs. Octagon, M.B.A. is killing it on the blackjack table right now. This is for the vacant WBC featherweight championship. Promoter Lou DiBella was talking up the Dominican Fortuna as the next big thing at featherweight last year. Brian Urlacher is ringside and looks gigantic in person. The theater is starting to fill up.
Round 1-Both fighters throwing bombs right off the bat. Fortuna is lunging in throwing huge hooks. Fortuna is warned for a punch to the back of the head at the end of the round, but he won that one for sure.
Life is good these days for boxing agent, advisor, and matchmaker extraordinaire Sampson Lewkowicz, whose stock has never been higher thanks to the exploits of middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez. The Uruguayan transplant has been riding high since the Argentine’s one-punch KO of Paul Williams set the boxing world afire last month and was kind enough to spare a few minutes to speak with Stiff Jab.
“I want to be modest, but I should remind you that I discovered Manny Pacquiao,” Lewkowicz said when asked what he saw in Martinez. “I have the talent to see the fighters, but this happens only once in ten years. To find pound-for-pound one of the best, it takes time. It doesn’t happen everyday.”
While putting together Spaniard Javier Castillejo’s 2001 bout against Oscar De La Hoya Lewkowicz met the manager who would later introduce him to Martinez. Sampson realized immediately that lightning had struck twice.
“[Martinez had] the same thing I saw in Manny Pacquiao in 2001. Unbelievable speed, courage, and [Sergio] is really a good person like Manny is. A good heart, a good sportsman inside and outside the ring,” Lewkowicz said.
But others were not convinced - including Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who passed on Martinez.
“The same thing happened with Pacquiao, nobody cared about Manny in 2001,” Lewkowicz said. “I gave [Sergio] to Golden Boy, Top Rank, all of them denied the opportunity except Lou DiBella.”
“It doesn’t mean Richard Schaefer doesn’t believe in me, but we can’t be perfect in life.”
Lewkowicz credits Sergio’s rapid development despite taking up the sport at age 20 to trainer Gabriel Sarmiento. He pointed to Martinez’s December 2007 fourth round-TKO of Russell Jordan at Paradise Theater in the Bronx as the moment everyone knew “Maravilla” would live up to his moniker.
My roundup on last night’s Broadway Boxing at BB King’s in New York is now up at Queensbury Rules. Here’s a taste:
Dominican junior lightweight Javier Fortuna announced his arrival to New York in style on Wednesday night in front of a packed house at B.B. Kings Blues Club, flooring unbeaten prospect Victor Valenzuela just over a minute into the 1st round.
The light-punching Valenzuela started out boxing but then unwisely threw caution to the wind and elected to trade with Fortuna, who caught him flush and secured his seventh 1st-round knockout soon after.
Brooklyn’s Gabriel “Tito” Bracero thrilled his vocal supporters by thoroughly outboxing Hector Alatore in a junior welterweight bout, winning all eight rounds on all three scorecards.
Bracero never looked out of sorts thanks to a big quickness advantage but his punches failed to stem Alatore’s (16-12, 5 KOs) advance and he may lack the power to trade with the elite at 140 lbs.
For the Giants fans out there the undercard featuring Steven Martinez may have held particular appeal:
Despite appearing to be overmatched in every aspect Lopez (3-3-3) showed heart by coming out fighting hard in the sixth, perhaps motivated by the taunts of New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who manages Martinez (7-0, 6 KOs).
Jacobs was joined at ringside by Giants offensive lineman Kevin Boothe; the pair cheered Martinez to victory and stayed for the Perez fight so Jacobs could finish what looked like a delicious plate of buffalo wings.
Check out my complete write-up of the card here.
No matter what your profession, if you’re a performer there’s nothing quite like plying your trade in New York City. The stakes are higher, the marquees brighter, the fans louder and the spotlight just a little more intense.
New York is where names are made and reputations shredded, which is why I’m thrilled to be covering tonight’s Broadway Boxing card at B.B. King Blues Club in Times Square.
Promoter Lou DiBella has had an up-and-down year to say the least but looks poised to finish it on a high note thanks to Sergio Martinez’ destruction of Paul Williams last Saturday. DiBella took some time this past week to talk about the challenges of staging fights in the Big Apple with Boxing Dispatch, definitely worth a read for New York fight fans.
On tonight’s card the headliner is undefeated junior welterweight prospect Gabriel Bracero of Brooklyn (12-0, 1 KO), who will take on veteran Hector Alatore (16-11, 5 KOs). The co-main event will feature unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Javier Fortuna of the Dominican Republic (12-0, 9 KOs) making his U.S. debut against New Jersey’s Victor Valenzuela (8-0, 1 KO).
Also featured is popular New York heavyweight Tor Hamer (12-1, 9 KOs), fighting for just the second time since losing a controversial split decision to Kelvin Price in May. Hamer will look to impress against journeyman Demetrice King (15-18, 13 KOs).