J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: The summer outdoor boxing event at the minor league ballpark, Frontier Field, returned after a hiatus. This was the third show for Pretty Girl Prom’ns (Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons), who staged last summer’s counterpart at the soccer stadium. The rain-sprinkled evening of 8/8/13 cast an air of tension that carried into the main attraction, an eight between Hector Camacho Jr., 169 ½, Carolina, PR, 56-5-1 (30), and Ireland’s Lee Murtagh, 157, fighting out of Leeds, 33-15-1 (1).
As a boxing match, it wasn’t. As a fight, it wasn’t much either. But as a spectacle, it was quite an event! Fans were divided between Puerto Rican and Irish, and vigorous in their support. The contest never opened up, had relatively few clean blows, or decisive rounds. As a result, the crowd was riveted on the action. And there was a lot of that, except most of it was outside the rules. Murtagh pressed the entire fight. Camacho ducked and slip-slided away, sometimes going underneath with counters. The first three rounds were neatly boxed and tight.
The mayhem began to build in round four. Exchanging beltline shots at close quarters, Lee became incensed when he felt referee Charlie Fitch warned only him. He responded with an angry low blow and was penalized, the first of three! Hector had a good round in addition, countering Murtagh’s rushes. In the fifth, Murtagh tried to counteract Camacho’s slipperiness by crowding in and brawling. But it only cost him another point for butting. Camacho at one point angrily tossed him off with a shoulder, and it was becoming a challenge for Fitch to keep it from getting out of control. He called them together to start round six and lectured them on the increasingly foul tactics. Murtagh landed a jarring shot that brought up the Irish contingent, but lost a third point for rabbit punching when Hector would duck and fall inside his charges. Loose tape on Camacho’s glove further aggravated the situation and delayed the start of the next round. Tension was high and small things meant a lot.
Round seven finally saw some clean, solid shots by both…advantage Murtagh…while a frustrated Camacho hit on the break and suffered his first point deduction. Lee took a minor scalp wound and was briefly escorted to his corner, as much to break the tension as to check the wound. Hector wasn’t faring much better, pawing a puffy left eye. Camacho finally had a strong last round, showing some initiative instead of countering, and scoring clean blows. But Murtagh mounted a small rally at the ten second tap, and had his fans cheering at the bell. With three fouls against him, there was little wonder about the decision. Judges Terry Beecher-Johnson and Eric Marlinski scored 77-71 and Allen Nace 76-73, unanimous for Camacho. But it could be said no one decisively “won” this match; Hector simply outpointed Lee. That’s how it looked to the many Irish fans who crowded around Murtagh on his way to the locker room.
In an earnest but tame eight (promoted from a six evidently because of the brevity of the undercard), local favorite Ryon McKenzie, 174, Canastota, 15-0 (11), won a majority verdict over Hamid Abdul-Mateen, 175, Brooklyn, 3-5-2. The crafty Mateen’s problem was that he was too small against the rangy McKenzie. Ryon’s longer reach dictated the terms. Hamid tried setting up counters and switching left-right. But even when he got in close, Ryon had the better hands and brought up shorter punches. Somehow Mateen managed to swell McKenzie’s left eye, taking him off the undercard of Mike Tyson’s inaugural show in two weeks, but Ryon closed with a punishing rally in the last round. Beecher-Johnson and Marlinski scored correctly at 78-74; Nace gave credit to Mateen’s shiftiness, at 76-76.
Popular Greg Brady, 197, Buffalo, 2-1 (2), had a laugher KOing Martez “The Legend (In His Own Mind)” Williamson, 185, Alliance, OH, 1-3, in 1:22 of round one, scheduled four. Martez couldn’t fight a lick, flailing like he’d never had a boxing lesson. To his credit, Brady just waited him out, then buried him with a double right, head and body.
Alberto Machado, 127, Rio Piedras, PR, 4-0 (3), got nothing from Andrew Moreno, 132, South Bend, 0-3, in a scheduled four. Moreno attacked crudely, missed and fell to the canvas. Referee Dick Pakozdi correctly called no-knockdown. The southpaw favorite promptly remedied that, digging a right hook under the ribs to floor Moreno for real. A left-hand cheap shot to the back of the head added nothing. Moreno floundered on the canvas for a KO at 1:03, round one.
Lavisas Williams, 132, Rochester, 2-0-1 (2), TKO’d Roel Moreno, 132, McAllen, TX, 0-2, in a fast and furious 0:46 of round one, scheduled four. Unlike the tomato cans who preceded him, the diminutive underdog came to mix with the rangy southpaw. But Lavisas kept him on the end of long punches, jolting him with a right hook in a desperation exchange. Though wobbly, Moreno stayed up and continued to mix until a straight left drilled him to the floor. He gamely stumbled up, but Fitch stopped it.
The first really competitive match was a good four between Brandon Williams, 128, Roch., 2-0, and hard-luck Luis Esquilin, 131, Phila., 2-5-1, who is a better fighter than his record seems to indicate. In a pairing of lefties, Brandon looked tactically sound in the first two rounds, effectively walking down his shifty opponent and spinning him like Kathryn Murray (anybody remember her?) to keep him from holding or slipping away. But when trapped and forced to exchange, Esquilin answered back! One of these exchanges had the crowd cheering and continued to the bell in round three, with Luis playing last tap. Except it was no tap; Brandon was jolted as the bell ended the round. In the fourth he wanted no more of such action and spent much of the round in a wide-circling, bouncing dance. Somehow the judges found reason to give it to him, and Brandon was awarded a unanimous shutout. Those last two didn’t come easy!
The pre-fight had been steeped in controversy over the winner’s inability to come even close to making contracted weight, and that was a focal point of Murtagh’s post-fight analysis. Give the Irishman an opening, and you have your interview:
“I thought I boxed all right,” he began. “I would’ve [pause]…I never ever want to sound like I’m making excuses ‘cause I never ever do, but I can’t say it any other way: had he been the same weight as me, I’d’ve jumped all over him like I was told to do in the corner…pressure, pressure, pressure. I did feel the weight of his shots. I felt the weight of his body shots, I think it was the first round. He caught me with one good one on the ear, I think it was the seventh round. That was power! He caught me with a couple of good [missed word] and I was, like, ‘that one really hurt’. But I’m not taking too many of them after that. [Correct; there were not a great many clean blows.] To the corner I said, ‘…I can see how he’s doing it’; his hands were low, his head moves fast but his hands were low, protecting his body, and obviously that’s where he took all the weight off [referencing that Camacho had struggled, and failed notably, with his girth].”
“Yeah, I wanted to dog-fight him, and that’s what I said I’m going to do, I’m going to box and dog-fight, box and dog-fight, take him out of his comfort zone. And I had every intention of doing that, until the Sunday afternoon when I seen him jogging and he looked about 12 stone 7. And I said, ‘Ah!’ I was happy because I felt he has to come down in weight, because weight-making’s hard and…I talk a lot, by the way…he has to take all that weight off, right? This fight’s mine! And I was confident. And then it hit me; he is who he is, he is a big name. His dad was a big name, God rest his soul. And if he doesn’t want to fight, they’ll just try and pay me off. Lo and behold, the same day I got an offer…to fight heavier, and I says ‘no’. Because for one reason and one reason only. I’m not here for money. I’ve never ever done anything at all for money. That’s why I’ve lost plenty on it. Every time, people takin’ money off me, ‘cause I’ve never done things for money. I’ve lost money, to make the weight heavier, the same day, I says ‘no, no thanks.’ “
“And then the day of the weigh-in, a couple of bits of garbage went off. Someone phoned the hotel saying he can’t make the weight, get somebody else in, blah, blah, blah [meaning a heavier replacement for Murtagh, not for Camacho]. You know how it goes without the politics behind it. And then it was on the scales. He came in 12 pounds over weight, but with the stipulated weight of 157 [meaning the contracted weight, not Hector’s actual]. The original weight was 154, which is 11 stone in our language. And he commented…and he wanted to be [pause; couldn’t come up with what he wanted to say]…and he was 12 stone 7. So therefore it was a [missed word] as a light heavyweight.“
Moving on to the fight: “Yeah, a couple of times I felt the strength. The kid can’t fight inside for [some slang term]. He complains to the referee about everything. If I was a manager, I’d teach him how to fight inside, because he is a good boxer.” Back to the pre-fight: “That was a pre-fight. That was a weigh-in. He came in 12 pounds over the top, which I was disgusted about, to be honest with you. And I said to the promoter, ‘I’m well within my rights to walk away , take my contract and get back on the plane and go have holiday.’ But I have Irish blood in me. I’m a fighting man. And that was that. I gave away 12 pounds and I didn’t want him to balloon another 12 pounds after the weigh-in so I stipulated he can’t put on too much after the weigh-in. I think he came in today at 12 stone 2, 12 stone 3. That was today, but that was only 12 o’clock, so you know…[referencing time to add more pounds undetected]. But that was that.”
“So had it have been the right way, I would have jumped all over him. What were the score cards? I mean, 76-73, and they took three points off of me…I think it was three. Any points off of Camacho? [Actually, there was one.] What I want to ask the American public, what I want to ask the American boxing writers is, can a southpaw not throw a rear-hand hook, which is all I was doing? Every time I went on the inside, he’s a southpaw, his right hand’s low, I was clear over the top. I can’t with a right because I’m stopped there, right? [Referencing close-quarter body position with both being lefties.] So I was going over the top. I don’t fight dirty, I don’t hit low, I don’t fight dirty, I don’t hit on the back of the head. [This all referencing relative body position, not deliberate fouling.]”
“Yeah, I’ll get penalized every single time. And I did the body shot to prove a point. Before the fight…he [referee] said these are ok [motioning legal area]. Well, how is the beltline…baseline, where my name is, ok when your belly button is above it? How is it [meaning ok]? It’s not, is it? Right? So, Hector Camacho’s [missed word; reference to body punch] was out there. And he [referee] says ‘here’s ok’ [meaning scoring area]. So the first few times, I popped on it purposely, right? And he [Camacho] was moaning. And the referee was [saying] ‘all good, all good, carry on, carry on.’ So I carried on. Then he [Camacho]went pop, which I thought was low, and I looked at the referee and he went ‘all good, carry on,’ so I went pop. And I said, ‘You mean like that?’ Whoa! Point off! I says, ‘For what?’ He says, ‘Cause it was intentional.’ Yeah, body shots are intentional! I’m trying to bring up his dinner, for God’s sake, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m sorry…I don’t get into that [sport] stuff. I’m a professional fighting man.”