Rock Solid Promotion in Houston - Boxing
By Vikram Birring at Ringside (Jan 21, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
One local heavyweight favorite fought a human bowling ball, a lightweight appeared perplexed when fighting a circus character a foot taller than him, a survivor didn’t last, and a light heavyweight prospect’s light shined brightest on January 17 as Rock Solid Promotions held its first card of the new year in front of a raucous crowd at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Houston.

Local heavyweight Steve Collins 17-1 (13) fought Octavius Smith 4-4 (3) in the main event. To call it a main event would
be generous. Smith walked to the ring with snarling facial expressions in camouflage clothing, with all the looks of a man on a mission. When he removed his jacket, all such thoughts went out the window as Smith’s physique displayed a man who appeared to have trained a maximum of thirty seconds for the bout. To be frank, Smith makes James Toney look like Mr. Universe.

Collins, a former factory worker, is Houston’s brightest hope in the heavyweight division. In a city where Cleveland Williams’ name looms large to this day, that is a huge amount of pressure. He is a strong, durable fighter, but he has no amateur experience. In essence, every professional fight is learning on the job. When the fight began, the biggest question from the crowd was if Smith had the stamina to last a round. Shockingly, he lasted all of the scheduled four, and observers at ringside shook their heads in amazement. It was a rough fight, and in the first round, referee Ronnie Ralston almost had his head taken off by Smith while breaking the fighters apart. While not in a clinch or pushing Smith away, Collins landed heavy shots. Smith simply ate them as if they were doughnuts and once in a while threw a punch in return, with little power. In theory, Collins should have gone to the body more; however, Smith’s trunks were up to his chest, so this task was rendered impossible. So Collins did what he could, persistently head-hunting for all twelve minutes, to the
delight of his fans. The only way Collins could have knocked down Smith would be if he were in the driver’s seat of a truck. Perhaps it was for the better, for if Smith did fall down, one wonders if the ring would have collapsed with him. In the end, Collins won by unanimous decision via the score of 40-36 on all cards.

In the penultimate match, light heavyweight Alfonso ‘El Tigre’ Lopez 6-0 (5) of Cut-N-Shoot, Texas, showed flashes of brilliance and all the tools of a future champion while impressively pummeling Raheem Gordon 4-3 (2) of Kileen, Texas. Before the fight, Gordon moved restlessly in his corner: Stomping, jumping, and shaking his arms and head side to side. There are those athletes that are hyped up before matches, but Gordon gave the appearance of a man on stimulants. Lopez was the complete opposite, completely calm, as if he were simply on an afternoon stroll, in a boxing ring.

As the old cliché in boxing goes, Lopez picked Gordon apart like a surgeon, one punch at a time. Gordon attempted to make the fight rough, and at one point wrestled Lopez to the ropes, and both men fell to the canvas. In response, Lopez simply smiled at his corner. Towards the end of the third round, Lopez threw a right cross, and Gordon fell flat on his face. He got up, but his facial expression was that of a defeated man. In the next round, Gordon did have one bright spot in the fight, as he nailed Lopez with a jab followed by a hard right cross. For the first time, Lopez became angry, and in return punished Gordon with fluid combinations, the sign of a true fighter. Gordon had awoken a sleeping giant, as Lopez continued to follow Gordon around the ring and batter him mercilessly until finally, in the sixth round, Gordon had enough, and the referee stopped the fight at 1:15.

Lopez has a bright future, as on this night, he showed all the tools an excellent fighter needs to have: intelligence, speed, power, and composure. In addition, he has the benefit of having a wise trainer in Henry Harris, brother of famed Houston fighter Roy Harris, the man who once fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship of the world. Henry himself fought Muhammad Ali in the amateurs, and even knocked him down. But as many other men found out throughout the years, Ali was just too fast, and won the fight.

Undercard Notes

Heavyweight Eugene Hill 9-0 (8) had the same physique as Octavius Smith, but there was one key difference: his fists contained the power of God. David Robinson, 25-55 (13), not the legendary San Antonio Spurs basketball player but an aging fighter from Oklahoma City, did something one rarely sees in the boxing ring. Journeymen lose most of their bouts, but they do have one key skill: the ability to see the final bell. Robinson, however, was knocked out, perhaps since the bout was his first at heavyweight in ninety-four fights.

Hill started the match on fire, landing thunderous right crosses and left hooks to the head of Robinson. Every time Hill landed a punch, it gave the sound of a shotgun blast, and Robinson winced in pain. Robinson’s strategy was that Hill would tire out, and his epiphany began proving true in the second round, as Hill threw fewer and fewer punches. Robinson, a barrel-chested man with a graying goatee, was in far better condition, and began landing short, accurate punches. Walking out of his corner for the third round, Robinson showed the swagger of a confident man, and continued to carefully pick his shots, as to avoid vicious counter-punches from Hill. Then, during a lull in a corner, a tiring Hill landed a thunderous combination and Robinson hit the deck, flat on his back. The crowd roared, and the referee immediately waved the fight off at two minutes, forty-three seconds. It would be a few minutes until Robinson finally got to his feet, and the crowd that was minutes earlier in a state of euphoria applauded politely.

It is one of boxing’s oxymorons: fans come to see one man inflict pain on another, but not too much, just enough so both can fight another day, a delicate balance. Boxing is not a sport for the squeamish, and perhaps Robinson should think about hanging up his gloves. Then again, what does a man with fifty-five defeats have to lose, other than his senses? Eugene Hill has the kind of power that makes crowds ooooh and aaaah at every punch. If he were in better condition, he would be a frightening heavyweight fighter.

Cruz Valdivia, 4-0 (2), a highly touted lightweight from Guadalajara, Mexico, tattooed Jerron Lockette, 2-10-2, of San Antonio for all four scheduled round of their bout. This was a circus match from the beginning. For starters, Valdivia was at least one foot shorter than Lockette. The fact Lockette made the lightweight limit at his height is a miracle in itself. Lockette seemingly had every advantage, except one: skill. Valdivia fights a similar style to Juan Diaz, and his strategy was to push Lockette around the ring, following up with frequent hard combinations, usually left and right hooks to the head. In response, Lockette picked up his leg, taunted the crowd, and waved at Valdivia, asking him to fight him. At one point, Lockette ran towards Valdivia, only to turn around and run back. Valdivia raised his eyebrows, wondering what kind of crazy man had been placed in the ring with. Lockette threw the occasional punch, but he had little technique and even less power. Valdivia simply brushed them off and wore Lockette down. Lockette lasted the distance, but Valdivia won unanimously on all cards: 40-36, 39-37, and 40-36.

The opening bout between hotshot Houston welterweight Darryl Nolan 3-1-1 (2) and Armenia’s Vardan Gasparyan 9-1-4 (4) was the most competitive match of the night. It was the classic boxing matchup: the silky smooth boxer against the persistent, pressuring puncher. In the first round, both men showed what they were best at. Nolan was a polished boxer, and showed off an excellent, piston jab, complemented by an occasional lead right cross so fast that he could land it move out of the way before Gasparyan could even think about throwing a counter-punch. Gasparyan was all pressure, he simply took anything Nolan had, shook his head, and bulled Nolan into the ropes, where he would throw thudding body punches to get Nolan to drop his hands. When Nolan did, Gasparyan made him pay with straight right hands that made the saliva fly out of Nolan’s mouth.

Nolan seemed to have won the first two rounds with superior ring generalship, but Gasparyan wore Nolan down as the bout progressed. In the fifth and sixth rounds, Nolan looked frustrated, as no matter how many pretty shots he landed, his opponent would continue to keep coming forward. After the final round, the faces told the story. Nolan shook his head and circled around the ring, looking down with his hands on his hips. Gasparyan, though bleeding heavily from the left eyelid, smiled and looked confident of a victory; he had made his opponent fight his fight, and had beaten the spirit out of his opponent.

Unfortunately, as is the case so many times in boxing, the judges got it wrong, calling the fight a majority draw: 57-57, 57-57 and 58-56 Gasparyan. The smell was eerily familiar to any fight fan, that of a hometown decision.

Thanks to Rock Solid Promotions for putting on yet another wonderful boxing card in Houston, with many more promised to come!

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