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Viloria and Vinson Score Sugar-Less Valentine’s Eve Victories
In the Main Event, the flyweight power-puncher nicknamed "Hawaiian Punch," Brian Viloria, was returning to the ring after seven months; a layoff due to contractual problems which seem resolved with the addition of Gary Gittleson as his new manager. In Friday night's opponent, Viloria was facing a tough veteran of 41 fights and the Hawaiian was unable to stop the elusive and crafty Keb-Baas, having to settle instead for a unanimous decision victory.
Getting off to a quick start, Viloria hammered away in round one and stunned the Mexican Keb-Baas, buckling his legs on one occasion and forcing him to fire double and triple jabs on the run. After a difficult first, Keb-Baas was able to survive the Viloria onslaught with his arms held rigid and in tight against his body, coupled with a gifted ability at slipping and sliding out of the way of punches with head and upper body movement, even while in a crouch with his back along the ropes.
As the rounds passed, Viloria was able to mount an attack at the start and finish of most rounds while he hung on the outside gathering his wind for his next flurry. Later trainer Freddie Roach blamed the lapse in conditioning on the layoff and the fact that Viloria had more weight to take-off in camp than ever before, including a pound he had two hours to sweat off on Thursday in order to make the bout's 112 pound limit.
Viloria spent much of the fight like an 18 year old Mike Tyson, or similar power-puncher that is enamored with his own knockout power and loses focus when his opponent doesn't stiffen and fall over backwards when first touched by his fists. Unable or unwilling to use basic boxing skills like a busy jab or combination punching, Viloria fought in violent bursts of power shots, many of which slid harmlessly past the elusive Keb-Baas.
Finally in round eight Viloria got what he wanted when Keb-Baas went down hard from a big left hook. Beating the count, Keb-Baas looked hurt and was dropped again from another left in a neutral corner, but time ran out on Viloria and the bell sounded to end the round giving Keb-Baas the rest period before the ninth to recover.
Surprisingly, the two knockdowns seemed to buoy the challenger's spirits and he came on hard to win the ninth in part due to Viloria's expended energy in the previous frame.
Over the last few rounds Keb-Baas had some of his best moments landing crisp jabs and hard hooks to Viloria's middle. In the last round it was Keb-Baas pressing the action with Viloria's back to the ropes, but the Mexican was unable to reverse the course of the bout and had to settle on simply lasting the distance against the former Olympian.
Afterwards, trainer Freddie Roach thought the lay-off was partly responsible for his charge’s less than spectacular showing. ȁHe was single-punching a bit…his timing was off…he did ok.” When asked whether going twelve tough rounds was just what was needed after the lay-off Roach disagreed. ȁI would have rather seen a better finish. He could have done it if he put 3 minutes together.”
Viloria had to settle for the points win and improves to 14-0 with 8 knockouts, while tough veteran Keb-Baas falls to 30-10-2 with 20 kayos.
Kicking off the televised portion of the card, Clarence Vinson returned to the same ring where he tasted defeat, last July by split decision to Heriberto Ruiz. Vinson hoped to restart his pro career against Costa Rica’s Roberto Chacon. Though not considered a power-puncher, D.C.’s Clarence Vinson fought more in the role of brawler against Chacon, pressing forward and throwing punches in bunches.
In round one, Vinson got right to work behind combinations thrown with bad intentions, something he later described working on with a strength and conditioning coach in training camp. Before the round ended Vinson was able to sting Chacon several times, the best shot being a right hand which connected with such force it left Vinson off-balance and stumbling to the canvas. Though no punch from Chacon appeared to land, the slip was ruled a knockdown by Ref. Richard Flaherty.
Unshaken by the unfortunate call in round one, Vinson kept the pressure on in the second and didn’t have long to wait for it to pay off. With Chacon on the defensive Vinson cracked him with a right hand to the temple that looked like the follow-up to a head butt to Chacon’s chin. Chacon went down hard and was unable to beat the count causing Flaherty to halt the contest at :46 seconds of round number two. With the win, Vinson rebounds from his first loss and improves to 13-1 with 6 kayos and Chacon drops to 11-5-1 also with 6 kayos.
Afterwards Vinson remarked that he has improved dramatically since his June defeat due to long hours in the gym, the addition of a strength coach to his team and even sparring sessions with uncle and WBO Super Flyweight Champ, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson.
“If I was to fight him (Heriberto Ruiz) again it won’t go past six…I’m ready for the world,” said Vinson. The DC native went on to predict he would win a bantamweight title by year’s end if a fight could be made with one of the belt holders.
The night began with a heavyweight bout between Talmadge Griffis and Harold Rodriguez. If looks won fights the chiseled Griffis would have beaten the pudgy Rodriguez during the pre-fight instructions but Rodriguez’ deceptive durability proved a bit of a puzzle for Griffis once the bout got underway. Each round Griffis hammered away at Rodriguez with powerful hooks to the mid-section and hard jabs to the head. Rodriguez threw very few punches in return and spent the majority of the bout absorbing bombs and covering up. Griffis became frustrated with his own inability to stop an opponent who was so easy to hit and hit hard, but Griffis was never able to sustain a flurry long enough to drop the rugged Rodriguez.
After an especially punishing round five, Referee Richard Flaherty stopped the contest before round 6 giving Griffis the TKO victory and handing Rodriguez his first loss by stoppage. Griffis’ record improves to 22-4-3 with 14 knockouts, while Rodriguez falls to 4-7 with one knockout.
In what was arguably the ugliest fight of the night, Levan Easley decisioned Shannon Miller over six rounds by unanimous scores of 60-54. Miller’s lurching, leaping and leaning back out of harm’s way of blows, coupled with his love for hurling haymakers, left this writer absolutely perplexed as to how a fighter this difficult to watch ends up on the televised portion of the card. Easley was able to land hard punches from the outside but was repeatedly tangled in clinches or left swinging after the fleeing and ducking Miller.
By round four Easley was feinting, shifting directions and leaping in behind left hooks, all frustrated attempts at landing with authority on his wild and amateurish opponent. In the final round Easley was clearly disgusted with his awkward opponent but he maintained focus in banging out an ugly decision to improve his record to 17-9-2 with 8 kos. Miller drops to 18-28-7 with 14 kos.
Another televised mismatch was the professional debut of Nigeria’s Ehinomen Ehikhamenor (pronounced EE-HE-nomen EE-Hik-ah-men-nor) against Anthony Riddick. Riddick was under the gun from the opening bell when Ehikhamenor charged at him and blasted away with long straight punches. Riddick went on the defensive immediately, slumping into the ring ropes with his guard held high and turning away from his opponent the way someone new to the sport would when pressured by a stronger and more aggressive fighter. Unlike Easley, Ehikhamenor was able to finish his overmatched foe before he wriggled too long on the hook.
Ehikhamenor, reportedly a talented amateur, will have to look towards his second pro fight to showcase his real abilities as the intimidated Anthony Riddick offered little more than a pulse and a soft physique to batter. Riddick leaves the Mohegan Sun with a record of 2-12 with 1 kayo, while Ehikhamenor gets his first professional win at 2:37 of round number one.
The walk-out bout of the night pitted undefeated Wayne Johnsen against Jay Holland. Johnsen scored a knockdown in the waning seconds of round one and Ref. John Cailas reached the count of ten just before the timekeeper rang the bell to end round one. Johnsen is now 3-0 with 2 kayos while Holland looks to regroup after earning his second knockout loss in as many pro-fights.
Unlike ESPN2’s last visit to a Connecticut casino on January 23rd when Foxwoods hosted the Pemberton-Sheika rematch, half of the televised bouts on Friday night’s card had no business being on national television. The rumors and rumblings are clear, ESPN doesn’t seem interested in professional boxing any longer and Sugar Ray Leonard’s Valentine’s eve gift to fans was more sickening than it was sweet.
Alex Pierpaoli has been obsessed with the Sweet Science for the past 18 years and is both a fan and a writer. He has a degree in English from the University of Maine. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org