By Peter Lerner: The remarkable recent rise of Orial Kolaj continued on Friday night as the once 5-5 (3) brawler picked up the EU light heavy belt with an eleventh round stoppage of Dario Cichello.
Since hooking up with Roman promoter Davide Buccioni he’s gone on quite an impressive run. He simply walked through 4-1 Andrea Moretti in two rounds last October, outpointed unbeaten Danio D’Agata for the Italian title in February (and thus avenged one of his defeats) and now this win over veteran Cichello. This time last year few followers of Italian boxing would have been bold enough to predict such a sequence – that is if they had even heard of Kolaj. It’s worth adding that all his defeats have all come to undefeated fighters.
There’s no real secret to his success. He simply trains like an animal and, when fight night comes, rumbles forward round after round. Other than the odd feint, there’s not much artistry to what he does and he’s pretty easy to hit. Yet the consistency of his work, combined with his formidable punch resistance, is proving too much for fighters at national level.
This fight was the second time the two have met – Kolaj beat Cichello on a disqualification a couple of years ago. Whereas that first fight took place in Cichello’s backyard of Tuscany, this time round they met outdoors in one of the main squares of Guidonia, just outside Rome. Kolaj, an Albanian who has long been resident in Italy, brought his usual contingent of rowdy fans.
After starting slowly, Cichello looked as though he could be taking the fight over in the middle rounds. Initially he’d been skittish in his work and Kolaj duly bullied him around the ring, but Cichello then started to stand his ground more and put a bit more meat on his punches. He had particular success with straight rights and the uppercut.
The problem was that although this kept the fight close on points (according to those of us at ringside), it was Kolaj who seemed to be doing more damage when he landed. After picking up a large protrusion on his forehead in the eighth, Cichello seemed to become more hesitant and gradually started to unravel.
The tenth was a good round for Kolaj and in the eleventh he put together a series of clubbing shots to have Cichello reeling backwards. At that point referee Giuseppe Quartarone jumped in. To some it seemed premature but considering the stage of the fight, the tiredness of Cichello and the clumping punches he had taken throughout, Quartarone’s decision was spot on.
Kolaj is now 9-5 (6). It will be interesting to see if he can continue his good run at some sort of European level. Cichello is now 20-10-2 (5).
There were three other professional fights on the undercard.
In the show-opener, young debutant Francesco Nespro won a six-rounder over Roberto Ruffini. The scores were 60-57, 60-55 and 59-55. Nespro is the younger brother of Gaetano Nespro, ex-national champion at middleweight.
Lightweight Manuel Lancia is from the neighbouring town of Marcellina and he brought a good quantity of supporters with him. They were as puzzled as everybody else when Lancia was only awarded a draw in his fight with Eros Marongiu. Secondsout, like most at ringside had it five rounds to one for Lancia. The judges instead scored it 57-57 twice and 59-56. Marongiu was competitive and obstinate but, apart from the second round, Lancia appeared too fast and cultured for his opponent, avoiding Marongiu’s rushes and responding with nice varied shots of his own. Lancia is now 2-0-1 (2) and Marongiu 3-1-1. Despite the verdict, it’s refreshing to see a competitive all-Italian fight like this early in a fighter’s career rather than the uncompetitive, unknown visitors that are often brought in for undercard fights.
The bout that preceded the main event saw light heavyweight Mirko Ricci stay unbeaten after outpointing Yassine Habachi over six (58-56 twice and 58-55). After making a fast start and scoring a knockdown in the first round, the unpredictable Ricci - something of a ’colourful’ character out of the ring - promptly spent the next two rounds on the ropes. At one point he voluntarily went to the corner as Habachi poured on the pressure, turned him and went over to the opposite corner to do the do the same thing over there. Seeing as he’s no defensive maestro and he took a lot of punches, it’s hard to understand what Ricci was trying. After giving up these two rounds he got his act together, upped his workrate and made sure of the victory. Ricci moves to 5-0 (2) and Habachi drops to 2-1-1 (1).
June 2, 2012