Hot Chicago Nights at the Fights
By John J. Raspanti at ringside (Aug 21, 2010) Doghouse Boxing  
Last week, roaming around outside the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois…waiting to enter the pavilion and cover a card that was being featured as part of ESPN’s Friday Night at the Fights, I pondered the rich history of the windy city and professional boxing. There are boxing landmarks scattered all around the city. Soldiers Field is known as the home of the Bears but in 1927 it staged the rematch of Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. Chicago was also the location of the battle of The Cinderella Man, James J. Braddock and the Brown Bomber…Joe Louis.

My own father at age ten, was in the crowd that night and has this vivid memory. “There was so much tobacco smoke, it looked like a million fireflies when people would light up" he said.
 
Ten years later at the same venue, the legendary Chicago Stadium another rematch took place, this one between Champion Tony Zale and challenger Rocky Graziano…in a fight that some boxing historians call if not the best fight ever, certainly one of the best. In 1929 the St Valentines massacre rocked the city; in 1951 the “Sugar Man” Ray Robinson did the same to the “Raging Bull” himself, Jake Lamotta. Sadly Chicago Stadium a witness to so much boxing history is gone, replaced by a high tech building called the United Center that has neither the history nor the character of its predecessor. As I entered the Pavilion I glanced over in the direction of where the stadium once stood, wondering how many ghosts where out and about on this very hot and humid night.
 
Windy City Fight Night is a monthly get together of local prospects, up and comers and journeymen looking to strike lightening in the bottle. ESPN’S cameras were in place as the opening fight of the night featured a couple of up and comers both sporting impressive records.  Southpaw Patrick Lopez (19-2-0 (11KOS) came out aggressively against undefeated but untested Prenice Brewer (15-0 (6KOS). Lopez immediately got in Brewer’s grill winging body shots and hooks that obviously had Brewer surprised and a little hurt. Near the end of the first round Lopez staggered the shell shocked Brewer with a perfectly timed right hand.  The second round was a carbon copy of the first as Lopez continued to pound Brewer with punishing body shots. Brewer tried to a box a little more in the second, shooting his jab and moving, but Lopez was to strong and determined for Brewer – backing him up in the corner and pounding away. A left hook to the liver hurt him badly near the end of the third round prompting referee Gerald Scott to stop the fight at 2:38 mark. There were no complaints from Brewers corner, as it was obvious from the get go that Lopez was just too strong. For Patrick Lopez whose record improves to (20-2-0 (12KOS) the fight was a “show me” fight and he accomplished his goal in a very impressive way.
 
Bout number two was a battle between local lightweights, as Antonio Avila tangled with Russell Fiore in what turned out to be an extremely engaging fight. From the get go it was obvious that Avila was the quicker of the two fighters, and…sharper. He immediately found a home for his right hand, jarring Fiore repeatedly. Fiore pursued but missed his shots and ate more rights until near the end of the first round Avila caught him with another right which deposited the undefeated Fiore on all fours. Up quickly Fiore battled back as Avila looked to end it but thought better of it after Fiore cold cocked him with a right of his own. Round two was more of the same…right hands by Avlia. Fiore pressed, throwing a lot of punches that mostly missed…but still maintaining his aggressiveness. Avlia continued to be a step faster staggering Fiore in round three, but he soon slowed down which allowed the determined Fiore back into the fight and to fire some of his own leather. As the fourth and final round began Avila came out flicking his jab acting as though he thought he had the fight already in the bag. Fiore kept coming but not as aggressively as one would think considering he was most likely behind on all of the judge’s scorecards. That is…until near the half way point of the round when Fiore turned up the heat a notch. He nailed Avila with a left hook and then was rewarded for his determination when he caught the moving  Avlia near the ropes (with yes a right hand) causing Antonio to sag and stagger in what was ruled a knockdown.  One judge ruled the fight 38-36 in favor of Avila while the other two judge’s had it 37-37 a majority draw. Fiore’s record is now 4-0-1 (4KOS) while Avila is 3-1-0 (1KO) A rematch is definitely recommended.
 
Next up was the main event scheduled for ten rounds, as Amir Khan conqueror Bredis Prescott…22-2-0 (19KOS) squared off against the tough Harrison Cuello 19-12-3 (14KOS)…of the Bronx, New York. Prescott’s power was evident pretty quickly as he whacked Cuello with some big body shots and later in the round staggered him. The second and third round were more of the same as the taller and more powerful Prescott continued to find Cuello with his shots while Harrison absorbed them. It looked to be an easy night but I guess somebody forgot to tell the gutsy Cuello because in round four he caught Prescott with a pretty good left hook. Bredis seemed a little winded as a braver Cuello kept absorbing and firing back, his confidence growing like a man on death row who s was given a reprieve. Cuello came out aggressively in the sixth but Precott (who had found his second wind) turned the tide by timing his right hand on Cuello’s chin. The punch appeared to take some of the steam out of Cuello who kept trying but was unable to land anything big on Bredis. The next few rounds where all Prescott as he outpunched Cuello and even scored an official knockdown in the ninth round though it appeared to be a punch/trip that produced it. Cuello continued to shake his head whenever Prescott nailed him. The man can take a punch, he even landed a pretty good left of his own in the tenth as he desperately tried for the knockout but Prescott stayed outside and boxed stinging Cuello with some more sharp punches.
 
Two judges scored the fight 99-90, while the third had it 98-91. Even in losing Cuello gained some new fans with his never say die style while Prescott continued to show a natural ability that can only get better.
 
Comebacking local heavyweight Mike Mollo 20-3-0 (12KOS) was looking for a big win against Gary Gomez 18-11-1 (7KOS) in a scheduled eight rounder. Mollo came out fast in the first, peppering Gomez with some inside shots and beating him to the punch. With his loud and boisterous hometown crowd exalting him, Mollo continued to outpunch the smaller Gomez who like a mack truck refused to take a backwards step. Fighting mostly on the inside Mollo appeared to get the better of the exchanges, though by the fourth round Gomez was landing some shots of his own. Mollo’s punch rate slowed as the gritty Gomez continued to come forward, winning the last few rounds on grit and determination. This doghouse scribe had Mollo ahead by a couple of points as did one of the judges but…he was overruled by the two other judges who scored the fight 76-76…a draw. Mollo looked very disappointed at the scoring while Gomez looked ready to continue the fight. As I said I did have Mollo winning but his performance against Gomez lacked fire, at times he seemed almost bored in there.
 
Another local fighter Jaimie Herrera 3-0-0 (2KOS) was in the ring next against Joshua Rodriguez 2-5-0 (1KO) Herrera came out like hell on wheels backing Rodriguez into the corner and blasting away, to his credit Rodriguez tried to answer back but the sheer volume of Herrera’s punches were too much.  Round two and three were more of the same with Herrera bombing away and Rodriguez absorbing but starting to slow down. In the fourth round a left hook to the body hurt Rodriguez whose corner finally noticed that their fighter was being overwhelmed. The fight was stopped 37 seconds into the fourth round, with Herrera a very happy and impressive victor.
 
Genera Mendez 1-0-0 turned Alexander “The Face of Rage” Tousignant 1-3-0 (1KO) into the face of defeat one second into the second round. The first round was fought pretty evenly for the first minute until Mendez took over beating Tousignant to the extent that his corner felt enough was enough. The stoppage was a bit of a surprise.
 
In his pro debut Antonio Canas stopped William Bokhart 0-1-0 with a pretty body shot at the 2:08 mark of the second round. The punch was clean as was the stoppage.
 
All in all it was an entertaining night at the fights. Walking towards my car I wondered if anyone else was mulling over the history of Chicago and boxing. Probably not I thought, until a warm breeze of humid air stung me. Oh boy the ghosts of past Chicago fights are out and playing tonight.

Questions/comments john.raspanti@activant.com

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