By Jason Pribila: On Friday Night ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights staged the second stage of their Boxcino Tournament. This week the focus was on the middleweight division. There were four bouts scheduled for six rounds each, and only the final bout of the evening forced the ringside judges to submit a verdict. The evening saw some boxers, punchers, prospects, and some inflated records get exposed. Most importantly, we go to meet some prizefighters who we are now able to follow because their next one and possibly two fights are already scheduled.
The most competitive bout of the evening also served as the de facto main event as it was the final televised fight. Willie Monroe Jr. (16-1, 6 KO) boxed beautifully and maintained his composure against the hard charging and frequently fouling Donatas Bondorovas (18-5-1, 6KO).
Promoters hoped to force action by constructing a ring that measured less than 17 feet in length. This disadvantage did not deter Monroe from sticking to his game-plan of boxing from the outside. The southpaw was able to use his jab and lateral movement to remain out of harm’s way.
Bondorovas seemed to become frustrated as he resorted to punching behind Monroe’s head and continually punching when ordered to break. Bondorovas mixed in a few low blows, but he was never punished for bending the rules.
Monroe showed maturity by sticking to his game plan. Although acknowledging he was being fouled, he never retaliated or campaigned for points to be deducted.
The rounds were fought at close range, they were competitive, and neither fighter was able to grab or sustain any momentum. The bout would come down to whether a judge preferred the fighter coming forward, or the one using ring generalship.
Vitaliy Kopylenko (23-0, 15 KO) needed only 3:43 to dispatch Cerresso Fort (17-3-1, 11 KO) and establish himself as the favorite of the Boxcino middleweight tournament. Kopylenko seemed to hurt the out-classed Fort with every punch he landed, including jabs. Fort was never in the fight and his legs never seemed to be beneath him.
We did not learn much about Kopylenko because he faced little resistance. However, he seemed to be the most technically sound fighter on the card.
When round two began Cerresso walked to the center of the ring. Once there he threw a left jab, ate a right cross, and found himself on the canvas. He made it to his feet, but he did not stay upright for long.
Kopylenko’s follow-up flurry resulted in another knockdown and TKO victory. The bout was officially waved at 0:43 of the second round.
The opening bout of the evening captured the kind of match-ups that makes this tournament unique. Brandon “The Cannon” Adams, 24, (13-0, 9KO) faced veteran Daniel Edouard, 33, (23-4-2, 14KO).
In 2005, Edouard faced an undefeated Jermain Taylor on the undercard of then champion Bernard Hopkins’ historic 20th title defense against Howard Eastman. Taylor’s TKO3 put him in position to successfully challenge Hopkins in his next fight.
Edouard went 7-3 in his next ten fights before walking away from the sport in January of 2011. In contrast, Adams made his professional debut two months after Edouard’s last fight.
Prior to the fight smart money would have guessed that Adams would jump on Edouard early. Aggression would have helped Adams not only help his confidence, but it would also give him an early indication of what Edouard had left. On cue, Adams did little in the opening frame.
Five minutes into the fight things started to click for Adams. He ripped body shots that not only stopped Edouard in his tracks, but also seemed to make him second guess returning to the ring.
Adams took the lead on the scorecards in the third round continuing to focus on Edouard’s body. Midway through round four Adams fired a counter left hook up top that sent Edouard to the canvas. Adams continued to pound the body as the bell rang to end the round.
When he returned to his corner, Edouard officially ended his ring return. Edouard decided that he no longer had it in him to be punched for pay.
The bout was waved off before round five began. Adams will now advance to the semi-finals with the confidence of having a name opponent on his resume.
The second televised bout of the evening would determine who would be next to face Adams in the semi-finals. Raymond Gatica and Sena Agbeko wasted no time letting their hands go, and also alerting the public that whomever advanced would be the underdog in their next bout.
Agbeko entered the ring undefeated, but sported a questionable resume. Trading punches with arm punches made many realize that his record said more about his competition than it did about his skills.
Gatica was not exactly using textbook technique, but his punches were straighter and seemed to have more behind them. Gatica hurt Agbeko midway through the third round, and nearly punched himself out while he attacked his stationary opponent.
The minute between rounds did more good for Gatica than it did for Agbeko. Gatica again cornered Agbeko and after throwing a series of unanswered punches, the bout was waved off at 1:06 of round four.
The semi-finals are set and the drama is scheduled to play out live on ESPN2 on April 18.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. He could also be followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.