Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Uppercut’s Saturday Night Fights Features Developing Talent

Mark Connor
© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

The highlights of the amateur boxing card on Saturday, October 10 at the Uppercut Gym in Minneapolis came from one of the club’s beginning boxers and another who is more seasoned. While a debuting Tim Tu, 155 lbs., walked across the ring and landed a solid right hand on the chin of an unsuspecting Brian Karanez of Anoka to score an opening round knockdown, capitalizing on the early surprise to win when the referee stopped the contest a short time later, Gizzy Hobbs, 145 lbs., showcased superior footwork and head movement in a bout against a taller and very determined Roberto Mendoza of Canada. Hobbs mixed his punching approach with shifting concentrations on jabs, lead left hooks, and occasional right hands, and at times confused his larger opponent by dancing and moving away and luring him in, rather than trying to chase him down to cut the reach advantage. His skill and poise won for him a well deserved decision.

In the opening bout Bryan Beccera demonstrated the degree of talent to be found in boxers younger than 12, defeating Julian Alvarez of Canada in a fight at the 75 pound division. Beccera, a southpaw with a noticeable reach advantage, fought off a determined Alvarez who landed his own share of punches. But Beccera’s jab proved to be too much, and the precocious punch controlled the momentum and secured the fight.

In the third bout of the evening, St. Paul’s Steve McComas, the three time Ringside Masters Division Light Heavyweight Champion, took on Heavyweight Jack Kennelly, also of St. Paul, in Kennelly’s competitive debut at 193 lbs. I was not at the weigh ins, but it seems highly unlikely McComas weighed anywhere near 193, although that didn’t deter him from out boxing Kennelly from opening to closing bell. Kennelly should be commended, however, because he kept coming every round and McComas admitted afterward that he gave him all he could handle. McComas is now in his mid-50s, and Kennelly is 57. I trained Kennelly for a short time in 2004 at St. Clair Fitness in St. Paul, and he has trained at Uppercut since 2005. It is a major accomplishment for him to have gotten to this point, and it will be no surprise if this nearly 30 year marketing professional is seen competing in Masters competition in the future.

In one of the more exciting contests of the night, Uppercut’s Jesse Vasquez of St. Paul fulfilled a lifelong dream of getting into the ring to compete when he won a 150 pound match with Dane Smith of Anoka. Vazquez, 22, showed his inexperience in catching a few more punches than he had to, but he kept his jab in Smith’s face, landed some good right hands, and kept up enough pressure throughout the fight to take the decision.

In the main event, Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Champion Deon Jordan gave his best effort at 163 pounds against Canada’s Kelly Page, but procrastination in the execution of combinations and getting hit at the end of exchanges put victory an inch or so out of reach.

Robbie Loyd of Uppercut took till the third round, but he stopped Jehrid Hale of Rochester to win a 165 pound fight. Jamie Barlett of Rochester defeated Damon Lachaman of White Bear Lake in the second bout at 115 pounds, and Abdi Gelle of Rochester won a decision over Brendan Feiler of St. Cloud in the 8th bout of the evening.
Uppercut Gym is located at 1324 N.E. Quincy Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410,
(612) 822-1964,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Figeuroa Settles for Technical Decision after Desperate Orozco Lands Headbutt in West St. Paul


Mark Connor
© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Danny Figeuroa, below, was far ahead of Hector Orozco after three rounds when in the 4th round he was forced to settle for a technical decision after a head butt cut him deeply over his left eye. (© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009)

The main event on the card of preliminary fighters promoted by Fernando Ortiz on October 3 at the Armory in the city of West St. Paul, MN lasted through an entertaining three rounds before a victorious Danny Figueroa (now 3-0-0, 2 KOs) was forced to accept a unanimous technical decision after being cut over the left eye from a head butt by a desperate Hector Orozco (now 1-3). Figeuroa’s performance warrants a chance for a preliminary fight at a bigger venue in the near future, and the other contests on the card made up for a lack of collective experience and polish with competitive action.

Figueroa was the aggressor throughout the fight, landing the majority of punches and forcing Orozco to back up each round. Whenever Figueroa actually found himself against the ropes he countered with solid shots that lead him out of danger and turned the tide immediately back in his favor. Finally, as Figueroa continued his dominance in the fourth round, Orozco butted him over the left eye, inflicting a deep cut to which referee Mark Nelson immediately responded by stopping the fight and sending it to the scorecards. All three judges had Figueroa ahead at 29-28. The Boxers and Writers Magazine card was 30-27 in favor of Figueroa in a fight that was reminiscent of another Orozco loss three and a half years ago.

On March 4, 2006, I assisted Dennis Presley in the corner of Raúl Gracia, against whom Hector Orozco was making his professional debut in Fargo, ND. He was absolutely no match for the superior skills of Gracia, who at one point even put Orozco down with a body shot. Orozco could do nothing offensively in that fight, and his most effective move was to tie him up. But in the middle of the fight (I think it was in the third round) he charged in with his head, opening a severe gash on Gracia’s face. Luckily it wasn’t in as severe a spot as the cut over Figeuroa’s eye on Saturday night, so the same referee, Mark Nelson let it go the distance. In four fights Orozco has lost three, and I have witnessed half of his career. It’s possible the two head butts in question actually were accidental, but if they were they indicate a lack of boxing skill on his part, because a fighter with proper balance who keeps his eye on his opponent is capable of keeping his head from becoming and illegal advantage in the fight. Let this fight be a warning to local officials in Orozco’s future competition, because it seems curiously coincidental that half of Orozco’s career has so far followed this pattern.

In a Lightweight contest Levi Cortes was announcedat 132 pounds, and David Lacque was announced at 138. Lacque actually weighed in the day before at 140, but the respective fighters agreed to go ahead with the fight so long as Lacque did not weight over 140 by fight time. Boxers and Writers Magazine received no information about any subsequent weigh-ins on the actual day of the fight. Nevertheless, the weight difference made no difference for Cortes. Lacque came out aggressively from the opening bell, but Cortes proved too much for him before the round was over. Lacque was repeatedly warned by Mark Nelson to keep his head up, because he was making the amateurish mistake of ducking punches with his head below his opponent’s belt while looking directly at the canvas. When Lacque complained about being hit in the back of the head he was sternly told to keep his head up. In the mean time, Cortes handled the Southpaw Lacque with brute strength and the unschooled thuggery of constant roundhouse rights. As he punished Lacque’s body with shots that echoed throughout the arena and drew excitement from the crowd, Lacque’s face appeared more troubled by the moment. It was evident that Lacque rushed into accepting this fight, and he definitely needs to head back to the drawing board before putting himself at further risk.

Jake Backus of White Bear Lake was unsuccessful in his professional debut at Bantamweight, dropping a unanimous decision to Vicente Alfaro. Backus, a southpaw, rushed in too fast, and although he had control in the first 30 seconds of the fight while backing Alfaro up, Alfaro caught him with a straight right hand off the ropes that irreversibly changed the tide of the fight. Alfaro was the aggressor for the last two minutes of the first round, and he landed more effective shots and remained the aggressor in the second round. Alfaro got caught a few times in the third round but landed clear shots throughout and recovered well when he did get hit, and although Backus landed a few solidly he got caught too much and was off balance at times. The final tally was announced as 39-37 from Judge John Mariano, 40-36 from Denny Nelson, and 40-36 from Joe Shoemaker. Boxers and Writers Magazine scored the fight identically with Nelson and Shoemaker.

Gustavo Espinoza and Juan Baltierrez fought to a majority draw in their 4 round Lightweight bout. While Baltierrez obviously had the skill to defeat the southpaw Espinoza, he was neither aggressive nor strong enough to pull it off. In fact, while he effectively countered with good right uppercuts to both the body and the jaw, there were never enough follow through punches and he let himself get tied up too much. Each round was close and judge Denny Nelson admitted it was a hard fight to score, but Boxers and Writers Magazine finds his assessment of 39-37 in favor of Espinoza to be much more accurate than the 38-38 ruling reached by both Mariano and Shoemaker. Baltierrez must build his strength and endurance to progress as a professional, and he also must use a solid jab if he expects to successfully fight against this level of competition or better. While he was able to counter a bit against the southpaw, he was obviously confused by the style and made the fight harder than it had to be. Given his small height and reach advantage, a solid jab and the shifting of angles—including body shots on both sides with left hooks to the head and straight right hands over the top—would have worked wonders for him and maybe even tilted the fight in his favor.

Brad Patraw scouted out Antwon Robertson in anticipation of their October 23 bout for the USA Minnesota State Bantamweight Championship at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota. (© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009)

Antwan Robertson boxed a 4 round Junior Featherweight/Super Bantamweight exhibition with Hassan Waswa. Robertson dominated as Waswa, charming and likeable but stubbornly persistent in his bad habits, moved on his heals and punched with stolid predictability. Robertson caught Waswa with a right hand that put him down once, but they both boxed an exceptionally entertaining sparring match to the crowd’s approval, and Robertson proudly put his Superman outfit back on before leaving the ring. Robertson was smooth and rhythmic, but his nemesis, Brad Patraw who recently defeated him and was scouting him out for their rematch over the Minnesota State Bantamweight title on October 23 at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, MN, was privy to the mistakes he seems to habitually make. Specifically, Patraw only has to time Robertson with a right hand if he wants to hurt him in their upcoming bout, so long as Robertson—who is sparring with Waswa on a regular basis—continues in that fight to constantly employ the practice of spinning to the left on his planted left foot on every left jab he throws, bringing his hand back low with his chin held high. Hopefully Robertson will correct this dangerous habit so his chances are increased and the fight in Mahnomen is much more competitive.

For a newly active promoter showcasing new, undeveloped talent, the card was well run. An exhibition of two young amateurs (Jordan Carranza and Chuy Rivera, whose ages and weights weren’t announced) was boxed at the opening of the show, and for filler there were some friendly farcical antics, including two women dressed in “Sumo Wrestler” outfits for a mock Sumo Wrestling match and a pair of neighborhood friends with oversized, pillow-like boxing gloves hamming it up for intermission entertainment that kept the crowd amused for their nominal, 25 dollar general admission fee.

Evelyn, from Chile by way of Richfield, MN, was the friendliest and most professional of the card girls, stopping here to smile and pose for a picture while informing us that round 3 is to come. She is employed by Accidenses Latina, a personal injury attorney law firm that sponsored the event. (© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009)

Some local ladies dressed up like Sumo Wrestlers for a theatrical Sumo wrestling match, while a couple of neighborhood friends battled with oversized, pillow-like boxing gloves during intermission entertainment below. (© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009)