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30 OCTOBER 2014

 

Troy Ross: Contender Champion and True Contender


By Derek Bonnett: The atmosphere at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino and Resort in Ledyard, Connecticut, USA, offered little in the way of boxing electricity during the early evening hours before it was to play host to The Contender series four finale. In fact, only several advertisements selling the night’s proposed action caught my eye as I walked around observing the new facilities of what should prove to be an excellent venue for Connecticut boxing. The boxing enthusiasts had yet to arrive.

About an hour before the doors opened, things started to come alive. I heard a buzz that Sugar Ray Leonard was in the building. I observed Classic Entertainment Sports promoter Jimmy Burchfield standing amid a table of colleagues with this fists raised and loudly discussing the fistic prowess of one of the Contenders. During a pass through the casino outside the MGM hotel lobby, I spotted a familiar face pulling down on the lever of a slot machine. Trainer Tommy Brooks smiled as I approached, almost aware I was a member of the media looking to pick is brain.

“Working on The Contender has been a great experience. It’s not like what I’ve done before,” Brooks offered soft spokenly. “Both fighters had very tough roads to get here tonight, but I think Ross has enough to win it. He’s got great skills.”

The two fighters Brooks referred to were the season four finalists Ehinomen "Hino" Ehikhamenor, 15-3 (7), originally from Rendal, Nigeria, and Troy Ross, 20-1 (14), a native of Georgetown, Guyana. Hino, as Ehikhamenor is affectionately called by his family and fans, is now based out of Queens, New York while Ross campaigns for Toronto, Canada.

The road Brooks spoke of was indeed a challenging one for the two men concerning the fighters each one drew throughout the competition. Hino, 28, had to get passed the crunching power of Darnell Wilson in the first round of the tournament only to face the unbeaten Deon Elam in the second round. To earn his Contender final berth, he needed to best the more experienced Rico Hoye. Ross, 33, faced Lawrence Taussa, a veteran of thirty-seven bouts, and handed him his first stopped loss via second round KO. He then met seasoned contender Felix Cora Jr. and decimated him in the opening frame. To make his finale date with Ehikhamenor, Ross was forced to go the distance in outpointing the big talking and sturdy chinned Akinyemi "AK" Laleye.

The Versus televised bout was scheduled for ten rounds and truly showcased the best talent of the tournament facing one another in the finals.

Round one showed excellent action from both men. Each fighter showed more poise coming out of the corner than any of the other Contenders who got the evening moving on the undercard. Both started off jabbing to feel each other out and measure distance. Hino connected with the first significant punch and pushed Ross back on his heels. Hino landed to the body with a hook, while Ross followed a powerful right that found its mark. Ross landed the harder shots throughout, but Hino found more openings and appeared the more fluid of the two men. After three minutes, a number of the members in press row scored an even round.

Ross initiated the action in the second stanza by digging a good hook to the body. That punch really got the fight started. Both began trading shots wildly and favored their offense to smart defense. As expected, Ross packed more power and forced Hino to clinch. After working his way out, Hino landed a big right hook that again forced Ross to take a step back. This time, the Nigerian native jumped on his man and forced Ross to the ropes where he unleashed a barrage. The bell sounded and Ross looked noticeably stunned, but not hurt.

The third began with the two in close quarters and Ross pummeling Hino with one hand whenever the two came together. Again, something set off a spark and both men dropped their guards to exchange a barrage of mighty hooks. This time each man absorbed what the other had to offer and just kept throwing. During one exchange, Ross hammered Hino with a right hand, but was caught cleanly when Hino countered to the body. As he tends to do throughout a bout, Hino began dropping his hands and making himself a more enticing target toward the close of the round.

The action came to an end in the fourth round to the dismay of many. Ross fired a hard right hand to the chest of Hino, which put a noticeable grimace upon the Nigerian’s countenance. Ross followed up with a pair of big hooks, but unlike in previous rounds, Ross smelled blood and did not slow down. Hino found himself in a corner and covered up. Clearly hurt by the ensuing barrage, Hino turned himself away from the swarming Canadian and prompted referee Steve Smoger to call a halt to an excellent contest.

Upon review of the tape, Hino appeared to have his wits about him, but the referee responded sensibly upon seeing the loser turning himself away from the new Contender champion. Ross added another first time KO victim pelt to his collection and, perhaps more than any other season champion, seems poised for a shot at the world cruiserweight crown. Ross showed enough adjustments in each round to show that he is a thinking fighter with power; that can be a deadly combination for the men at 200 pounds.

In other action that night, Alfredo Escalera, Jr., 17-2-1 (12), scored a dominant KO victory over the very durable Erik Vega, 8-4-1 (6). Escalera, Jr. utilized a strong jab to control the pace of the fight and set up his power shots to win virtually every round. The bout seemed destined to go to the cards with the chin of Vega on display for every to comment upon in awe, but after drawing blood from Vega’s nose, Escalera, Jr. jumped on his man to prompt a stoppage at 2:50 of the sixth round.

Ryan Coyne of Missouri posted a lopsided decision over the very un-engaging Richard Gringras of nearby Massachusetts. Each round saw Coyne applying more pressure and landing the cleaner punches, but neither man was able to ever landed a punch that put the other in trouble. Coyne suffered a cut from a possible head butt late in the fight, but it never became a factor and the Irish fighter, Coyne, advanced his unbeaten record to 10-0 (2). Gingras fell to 9-3 (5). The judges cores were 60-54 (twice) and 59-55. Neither man looked impressive throughout and it appears that advancing up the cruiserweight ranking with be an uphill battle from here on.
In what was probably the only mismatch of the night Felix Cora Jr. got himself back in the win column with an impressive third round stoppage of Tim Flamos, 20-6-1 (8). Cora, Jr. employed a steady jab to the head and body of Flamos to set the pace. Flamos seemed very tense and arrived in the ring bone dry. When Flamos did throw, his punches were slow and wide and easily eluded by Cora, Jr. For as long as the fight lasted, Flamos followed Cora’s lead and lunged with his punches instead of doing something to close the gap between them. Cora, Jr. began to unleash and Flamos started obliging him in the pocket, but the power of the more experienced veteran was just too much and Flamos found himself dropped hard on his face. Flamos beat the count, but the follow-up barrage of hooks and body shots prompted the stoppage as Flamos flailed around on wobbly legs. The official time of the stoppage was 1:57 of the third round. Felix Cora, Jr. improved to 20-3-2 (10) and should be a stiff test for any of his season four teammates in future Contender match-ups.

The last bout before the main event was an excellent hors d’oeuvre to work up the appetites of the fans at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Like the main event it showed a shift on momentum and better boxing skills than the preceding bouts. The 6’4" Rico Hoye kept his title hopes alive by taking third place in the tournament with a difficult decision over the 5’11" Akinyemi "AK" Laleye. Hoye did not take advantage of his physical advantages over the first two round and allowed "AK" to crowd his chest and hurt him on several occasions. A left hook at the end of the first nearly had Hoye down and his knees buckled to end the round. After each of the first two stanzas, Hoye wore a concerned look in the corner.

However, the once highly ranked light heavyweight stormed back to even the cards after four rounds. Hoye began using distance to apply better use of his jab and started loading up on his power. "Ak"’s arrogance in the ring probably cost him some point since he often did not cover himself up and took the full force of many blows. The pressure of Hoye sapped much of the Nigerian’s stamina and by the fifth Laleye resorted to illegal tactic. He often lead in with his head and began pushing more than punching. Laleye lost a point in the fifth and sealed his doom by allowing Hoye to outwork him over the last frames. Hoye’s punch output stood between 85 and 100 punches throughout the contest.

Hoye rebounded from his loss to Ehikhamenor by unanimous scores of 79-72 over eight rounds. Most ringside observers had it marginally closer, but the victor was clear.

Upon review of the tape, Hino appeared to have his senses, but the referee responded sensibly upon seeing the loser turning himself away from the new Contender champion. Ross added another first time KO victim pelt to his collection and, perhaps more than any other season champion, seems poised for a shot at the world cruiserweight crown. Ross showed enough adjustments in each round to show that he is a thinking fighter with power; that can be a deadly combination for the men at 200 pounds.

In other action that night, Alfredo Escalera, Jr., 17-2-1 (12), scored a dominant KO victory over the very durable Erik Vega, 8-4-1 (6). Escalera, Jr. utilized a strong jab to control the pace of the fight and set up his power shots to win virtually every round. The bout seemed destined to go to the cards with the chin of Vega on display for every spectator to comment upon in awe, but after drawing blood from Vega’s nose, Escalera, Jr. jumped on his man to prompt a stoppage at 2:50 of the sixth round.

Ryan Coyne of Missouri posted a lopsided decision over the very un-engaging Richard Gringras of nearby Massachusetts. Each round saw Coyne applying more pressure and landing the cleaner punches, but neither man was able to ever land a punch that put the other in trouble. Coyne suffered a cut from a possible head butt late in the fight, but it never became a factor and the Irish fighter, Coyne, advanced his unbeaten record to 10-0 (2). Gingras fell to 9-3 (5). The judges cores were 60-54 (twice) and 59-55. Neither man looked impressive throughout and it appears that advancing up the cruiserweight ranking with be an uphill battle from here on.

In what was probably the only mismatch of the night Felix Cora Jr. got himself back in the win column with an impressive third round stoppage of Tim Flamos, 20-6-1 (8). Cora, Jr. employed a steady jab to the head and body of Flamos to set the pace. Flamos seemed very tense and arrived in the ring bone dry. When Flamos did throw, his punches were slow and wide and easily eluded by Cora, Jr. For as long as the fight lasted, Flamos followed Cora’s lead and lunged with his punches instead of doing something to close the gap between them. Cora, Jr. began to unleash and Flamos started obliging him in the pocket, but the power of the more experienced veteran was just too much and Flamos found himself dropped hard on his face. Flamos beat the count, but the follow-up barrage of hooks and body shots prompted the stoppage as Flamos flailed around on wobbly legs. The official time of the stoppage was 1:57 of the third round. Felix Cora, Jr. improved to 20-3-2 (10) and should be a stiff test for any of his season four teammates in future Contender match-ups.

The last bout before the main event was an excellent hors d’oeuvre to work up the appetites of the fans at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Like the main event it showed a shift of momentum and better boxing skills than the preceding bouts. The 6’4" Rico Hoye kept his title hopes alive by taking third place in the tournament with a difficult decision over the 5’11" Akinyemi "AK" Laleye. Hoye did not take advantage of his physical advantages over the first two rounds and allowed "AK" to crowd his chest and hurt him on several occasions. A left hook at the end of the first nearly had Hoye down and his knees buckled toward the end the round. After each of the first two stanzas, Hoye wore a concerned look in the corner.

However, the once highly ranked light heavyweight stormed back to even the cards after four rounds. Hoye began using distance to apply better use of his jab and started loading up on his power. AK’s arrogance in the ring probably cost him some points since he often did not cover himself up and took the full force of many blows. The pressure of Hoye sapped much of the Nigerian’s stamina and by the fifth Laleye resorted to illegal tactics. He often led in with his head and began pushing more than punching. Laleye lost a point in the fifth and sealed his doom by allowing Hoye to outwork him over the last frames. Hoye’s punch output stood between 85 and 100 punches throughout the contest.

Hoye rebounded from his loss to Ehikhamenor by unanimous scores of 79-72 over eight rounds. Most ringside observers had it marginally closer, but the victor was clear.

February 26, 2009


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