By Jason Pribila at ringside: The Premier Boxing Champions returned to the Sands Resort and Casino in Bethlehem to present their Tuesday Night “Toe to Toe” which aired live on Fox Sports 1.
The main event of the evening featured a cross-roads bout in the lightweight division between Luis Cruz (22-4-1, 16 KO) against Ukraine’s Ivan Redkach (19-1, 15 KO). Cruz entered the ring with a 2-3 record in his last five fights, including a stoppage loss to Edner Cherry last Summer. He realized that he needed a win to ensure that this would not be the last show that he headlined.
Redkach, a tall slender southpaw entered the ring as the more confident fighter. His game plan seemed to be to impose his will on Cruz by coming forward and throwing punches with bad intentions. There was little deception as he telegraphed many of the whip-like power punches that he delivered.
After a feel-out first round, Cruz got Redkach’s attention when he scored a flash knockdown. Redkach seemed more embarrassed than hurt, and he charged across the ring to erase the point he had just lost.
Rather than wilting under Redkach’s pressure, Cruz soon turned his aggression against him. Cruz displayed superior footwork and he was able to not only make Redkach miss, but he made him miss by a lot.
By the midway point in the fight, Cruz was giving Redkach a boxing lesson. Confidence had given way to frustration, and there was swelling under both of Redkach’s eyes.
As Cruz was widening his lead in round 8, he avoided a Redkach right, but remained stationary as Redkach landed a booming left that knocked Cruz off his feet.
Redkach was now reenergized in the 9th. He was suddenly able to cut off the ring and do damage when he landed punches. Redkach then received another huge break when his shove of Cruz was ruled a knockdown by referee Gary Rosato. The extra point awarded to Redkach would prove to impact the official verdict.
With the fight possibly on the table, the final round played out like the previous nine rounds. Cruz out-boxed Redkach early only to allow his foe to land shots late to possibly steal the round.
The long commercial break added to the drama as the crowd and fighters were waiting for the official scores. Official scores of 94-93 for Cruz, 94-93 for Redkach, and finally 94-94 determined that 30 minutes of action were not enough to determine a winner.
They say that no one is ever happy with a Draw, but in this case, the fighter who was able to outscore his opponent by 5 points in the final three rounds should be very thankful that they avoided a loss.
As for Cruz, he displayed his skills in front of a national audience, and he did so well enough to guarantee another meaningful bout in his near future.
Immanuel Aleem used precision punching to bloody and eventually outscore the game but slightly overmatched Jonathan Cepeda.
Aleem varied his offensive output to keep Cepeda off balance. At times Aleem was content to fight behind his high guard to get a feel for what kind of power was behind Cepeda’s punches. When Cepeda opened himself up, Aleem was able to quickly counter and beat his opponent to the punch.
The right side of Cepeda’s face was covered with blood over the second half of the fight, but it never deterred him from trying to win. Unfortunately, Aleem was not about to get careless and allow Cepeda to steal a victory.
The accumulation of clean head shots caused the Cepeda corner to take a long look at their fighter after the sixth round. Despite being out-classed, Cepeda was still aggressive, so the fight continued.
The last two rounds played out like the rounds that preceded it. Cepeda earned the right to hear the final bell. While no one will be able to measure if that consolation was worth taking more punches to the skull, it is a reminder of why this sport is not for everyone; and only those with the courage to lace up the gloves are qualified to answer that question.
The official score of 79-73 was turned in by all three judges.
The televised portion of the card got off to a sizzling start as a pair of undefeated middleweights put their 0’s on the line. Junior Castillo (10-0, 9 KO) dropped Kyrone Davis (10-1, 4 KO) in the fifth round en route to a unanimous decision.
It was clear early that fans were in for a treat. This was not the case of a prospect being matched against an opponent with a glossy record. This was an example of two skilled fighters who took a risk at an early stage of their career. Their teams should be commended, and Davis should not view this blemish on his record as a major set-back.
Castillo was the aggressor of the two. The fact he knocked out each of his previous opponents would explain the self belief in his power. The former Olympian of the Dominican Republic was a bit wild and wide with his shots early.
Davis showed his confidence by standing in the pocket and countering Castillo early. He was effective landing single punches, but never committed to staying in the pocket to attempt to land a counter.
Neither fighter was able to impose their will on the other, but the difference in punching power would soon tip the cards in Castillo’s favor. The fighters were trading in close quarters when Castillo missed with a lead right. Davis was in position to counter, but a Castillo hook beat him to the punch and the result was a knockdown.
The knockdown elevated Castillo’s confidence, and he came out of his corner in the fifth poised to walk through whatever Davis put in front of him.
Davis recovered well from the knockdown, but he was never able to land anything big to earn Castillo’s respect, or turn the momentum in his favor.
The judges made it official when they turned in cards of 78-73, 77-74, and 76-75 all in favor of Castillo.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com, or followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.