Editor's Note: The result of this fight was officially changed from Disqualification to No Contest. More information forthcoming
© Copyright 2009, Mark ConnorBy
© Copyright 2009, Mark ConnorBy
Raphael Butler appeared to be in command of the Minnesota Heavyweight Championship fight against Joey Abell as the final 30 seconds of the first round approached. He’d been landing good combinations and winning exchanges, picking apart the southpaw Abell with jabs, hooks, right hands and body shots. He was moving well and slipping well and seemed to be establishing the kind of rhythm that propels a fighter to victory. But then suddenly Abell hit him with a solid straight left hand that seriously stunned him, and then he punched some more and knocked him down. As Butler got up he did what was necessary to survive the round and the bell rang. It clearly rang. There was no mistaking it. Then, as Butler put his hands down and was ready to return to his corner, Abell threw the left again, knocking Butler out. Thereafter a melee occurred when Butler’s trainer, Dan O’Connor, ran into the ring and over to Abell, attacking him, at which time Abell’s corner attempted to protect him. When the incident had calmed down just a bit Abell went to Butler’s corner to tell O’Connor he wasn’t aware the round was over when he threw his last punch. After Butler was revived and had been awarded the victory, he was given the microphone and tried to tell the crowd Abell would get a rematch, but he could barely be heard over the boos.
Before the fighters exited the ring I was able to talk briefly to both of them, although State Commissioners were attempting to block interviews. Just before leaving the ring Abell verified to me that he told O’Connor he hadn’t realized the bell had rung before throwing the last punch, and Butler verified my suspicion, that until getting hit with the first significant Abell left hand he felt he was in command of the fight.
“I thought it was going to be an easy fight,” Butler said in reference to how he’d been doing prior to being dropped.
As disappointed as the crowd was, the disqualification was the right call. Historically speaking, even though the reference is to the amateur rather than the professional arena, the incident reminds me of when Evander Holyfield was disqualified in his 1984 semifinal Light Heavyweight Olympic bout in Los Angelus when he didn’t break momentum and knocked his opponent. Also, Abell showed the same level of class after his disqualification as Holyfield did while representing the U.S. in the Olympics 25 years ago.
In the co-main event Zack Walter of Duluth, MN was overwhelmed by Larry Sharpe of Pine Falls, Manitoba, Canada, who dropped him twice to win by knockout at 56 seconds of the 1st round. Sharpe improved to 24-4, 13 KOs, and when interviewed after the fight he announced to a round a boos from the Twin Cities crowd that he now wants to fight Matt Vanda. “I’d been campaigning as a Junior Middleweight,” he said, “and I didn’t belong there. I’m a natural Super Middleweight.”
The night’s most entertaining fight was the unanimous decision victory of St. Paul lightweight Tony Lee in his professional debut against Hector Orozco of Hopkins. Lee took command immediately with his jab and executed fast combinations. He also landed numerous body shots throughout the fight and in the 1st round dropped the southpaw Orozco with a right hand from an angle the man couldn’t see. Orozco proved tough and determined, though, continuously coming and landing a significant amount of his own punches. Lee pressed on with speedy combinations from angles he was able to create with movement, landing right hands and left hooks against the southpaw stance but also finding the jab consistently and pounding the body. By the middle of the second Lee’s knockout opportunity appeared to have slipped away, and by the end of the third he tended to carry his hand a little low, subtly signifying the weariness creeping into his arms from punching a guy who wouldn’t give up. But before the bell to end the round he pulled his hands back above his chin and went to work with combinations. Lee was significantly less effective in the last round, though, leading me to debate whether he won it. I gave him the nod, as one judge obviously did with a 40-36 final score. My unofficial card agreed with that, but the cards of Denny Nelson and John Mariano were both 39-36, leading me to believe Lee’s fatigue lost the 4th for him in their eyes by a margin of 10-9. Lee showed me his left hand afterwards, which was significantly bruised near the outer wrist, and he said that it inhibited him during the last half of the fight. Orozco faired well enough in this fight, but he took a lot of punches and was in over his head, as he was in his professional debut in 2006 when he lost a unanimous decision to Raúl Gracia, whose corner I was in at the time. It seems to me that Orozco is an exceptional athlete and has potential as a boxer, but he needs to fight some opponents with less skill on whom he can practice new moves and sharpen his combinations and defense. Lee will need more conditioning and another entry level opponent, but should then be able to take the next step and progress steadily.
Boris, “The Russian Giant” Shishporenok, of Blaine (who is actually from Belarus, not Russia) controlled his bout from the beginning against a debuting Will Gillette of Rapid City, SD. The taller and heavier Shishporenok, a southpaw who weighed 280 pounds and stands 6’-5’’, towered over Gillette and visibly damaged him before the end of the first. He consistently jabbed and followed through with hooks and uppercuts after catching Gillette with left hands coming in. Then, in the second round he threw a perfectly timed one-two combination that Gillette walked into, the left hand landing flush and knocking him cold. Shishporonek climbs to 7-1, 6 KOs. He was originally scheduled to fight Travis Walker but the match fell through, and so he settled for this significantly easier challenge.
Lightweight Gary Eyer, Duluth, MN, has to be admired for being courageous enough to enter the arena to the cross dressing singer Boy George’s song “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”. Standing taller than his rough Mexican opponent, Levi Cortes of St. Paul, he took punches all night in a 6 round fight he won by unanimous decision. Apparently the right hand haymakers that Cortes threw were seen by the judges as grazing blows that made some noise and riled the crow but did not actually score, event though they consistently clocked Eyer in the face and visibly damaged him. Cortes took his own share of punches and was cut badly on the mouth, while Eyer was significantly bruised on the lower corner of his left eye. While Eyer exhibited a fair amount of skill he didn’t seem to be landing nearly as many punches as Cortes, nor was he generally effective. He did score two knockdowns, however, one in the third and another in the 5th, and referee Bob Brunette (very unjustifiably, I believe) told Cortes’ trainer, Fernando Ortiz in the corner that if another such knockdown occurred in the 6th he would stop the fight. Actually, when the first knockdown happened Eyer had been taking a pummeling, but he wisely timed a left hook over Cortes’ haymaker right. Eyer was obviously trying to land that punch all night, as was evidenced by his continual lifting of his right foot while moving back to time Cortes coming in. The problem with that strategy is it tended to cause him to lean in off balance and throw his right hand with his back foot slightly in the air, inhibiting him from ever being able to seriously threaten Cortes even after knocking him down. After the first knockdown Cortes wisely clinched very tightly several times and came back strong in the closing portion of the round. The second knockdown resulted in another strong survival response. I would have scored the fight 59-56 for Cortes. However, Cortes must work on a number of things which could have helped him in this fight. The first is to shorten that right hand instead of throwing haymakers, the second is to stop smothering himself and learn to take half steps back or to the side to maintain punching range, and the third is to throw an uppercut. Any one or all of these tools could have helped him tremendously in this tough battle. Eyer’s improvement would start with a good strong jab which was nonexistent in this fight. Nevertheless, Eyer climbs to 7-0-1, 5 KOs.
Tomi Archambault of Minot, ND struggled down three pounds Thursday night to make the minimum 130 pounds to meet the 129 + or – limit for the Featherweight (normally 126 lbs) fight against Coon Rapids’ Ronnie Peterson, 127. Peterson dominated the first round with body and head combinations, hooking well off the jab and making Archmambault miss or catch his shoulders or gloves when returning fire. Peterson began to look physically troubled in the second half of round 2, however, which he obviously lost. His breathing appeared to be inhibited, and, unfortunately the bout was stopped after the second round when he complained in his corner of a shoulder injury. Peterson suffered a significant shoulder injury in his final year as an amateur, which subsequently prevented from him from competing in the National Golden Gloves at the time. Hopefully he will make a full recovery and this incident won’t significantly retard the progress of his career.
Ronnie Peterson’s older brother, Junior Middleweight David Peterson of Mounds View, had absolutely no problem against Silas Ortley of North Dakota, over whom he scored a 4th round TKO. Peterson pounded Ortley’s soft body for three and a half rounds, the North Dakotan falling to the canvas. Peterson was open and vulnerable throughout but Ortley was not skilled or conditioned enough to capitalize on it. In fact Ortley, falling to 4-8, 3 KOs, appeared to have no idea how to handle Peterson, now 12-0, 7 KOs. Peterson’s last outing was a win over Corrie Rodriguez, shortly after which he related to me that he was surprised at how easy it came. Significant training will be required, but he should fight another opponent of that caliber with the intention of taking a step up from there in the immediate future. He has potential, but he’ll never be challenged on this level, or worse—he could get lazy and get caught with an unseen punch against someone like Ortley who has no business in the ring with him.
Junior Middleweight Saverino Garcia, Jr., of St. Paul, got his first win with a unanimous decision over Jacob Dobbe of Minneapolis. Garcia, now 1-0-1, 0 KOs picked up his first win over the debuting Dobbe, who showed a lot of heart and potential. Garcia fights significantly similar to his dad, former Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Champion and professional featherweight Saverino Garcia, Sr., who trained in the Petronelli camp in Brocton, MA where he sparred with Middleweight Hall of Fame Champion Marvin Hagler. The willingness to trade blows is apparently hereditary in this case, but the lesser number of years experience are evident the son’s lack of defense. Against a fighter of significantly little experience Garcia started slow, seemingly surprised at Dobbe’s ability to hit him and determination to fight. He clearly lost the first round. He came on by the second half of the second round, though, when he began to find his timing and rhythm. Then he got into the groove and dominated the last two rounds, proving that with a little more conditioning and sharpness he can start dropping opponents on the preliminary fight level. He and his father both said that they know he has a lot to work on and they’re just happy to have gotten the experience as they look to the future.