By Jason Pribila: Hall of Fame promoter J. Russell Peltz brought his brand of boxing back to Bally’s Atlantic City on Saturday Night. The main event saw the surging Garrett Wilson (11-5-1, 5 KO) stop the slick Chuck Musschio (17-2-2, 5 KO) at :41 of the twelfth and final round to retain his regional cruiserweight title in a see-saw affair. Main support was provided by undefeated welterweight Ronald Cruz (15-0, 12 KO) who twice dropped veteran Anges Adjaho (25-7, 14 KO) en route to forcing a stoppage at the end of the fifth round.
Wilson entered the bout on a career roll. He won the vacant USBA cruiserweight title by out pointing Omar Sheika in April of this year. In Mussachio he faced a light heavyweight who was moving up in weight for the opportunity. Mussachio had been idle since December of last year as he had to deal with the losses of his uncle and a close friend. He would need to rely on his boxing skills to disarm the bigger and more powerful Wilson.
By round three Mussachio had established the proper distance to allow him to land one-twos and his legs allowed him to escape Wilson’s counter punches. All was going according to plan until Wilson finally buckled his foes legs with a big right hand. Mussachio survived the round after being reminded that he was competing at a heavier division.
Wilson was soon guilty of loading up for another big shot with the knowledge that he had to power to hurt Mussachio. The boxing “professor” took advantage of Wilson’s inactivity and was soon landing hard counter punches of his own. Although landing cleanly, it was obvious he did not have to power to completely deter Wilson from coming forward.
Each man had their moments and we seemed destined to an interesting reading of the scorecards. We would find out if the ringside judges preferred the boxing skills of Mussachio to the power of Wilson. The men touched gloves when the final round began and Wilson seemed determined to not leave his fate in the hands of others. Less than a minute into the round, Wilson walked Mussachio into another big right hand. This time Mussachio’s legs failed him, and he went down for the count of ten.
Following the fight Wilson admitted that he felt that he needed the knockout in order to get his hand raised. The disappointed Mussachio was classy in defeat and stated that he will continue to fight at his natural weight class where his clean punches will make more of an impact on his opponents.
In the semi-final, the fighting Pride of Bethlehem, PA, Ronald Cruz (15-0, 12 KO) scored his eighth straight knockout by stopping his most experienced foe to date. Anges Adjaho (25-7, 14KO) entered the ring on a five fight losing streak, but anyone that looked at his list of opponents realized that he was a live dog. Adjaho has lost decisions to Joel Julio, Shawn Porter, Brad Solomon, and had only been stopped once by lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco in July of 2009.
Cruz jumped out to an early lead on the scorecards by scoring with his jab and ripping body shots to Adjaho’s body. Cruz has become a natural at varying the speeds of his offensive output. He will lull an opponent to sleep by throwing soft punches that touch his opponent before firing a fastball down the middle or looping hooks to the ribs. He seemed to be breaking down the faster Adjaho after two rounds.
Midway through the third round Cruz turned southpaw. He has done so in the past, but the timing of this decision did not seem to give him a competitive advantage. He seems to have to think before he delivers punches from that stance, and Adjaho took advantage by going on the offensive. Hard right hands up top found their mark and Cruz’s offense was temporarily neutralized.
Adjaho had his best round of the fight in round four and he beat Cruz at his own game by ripping a left hook to the body that visibly shook Cruz. The Puerto Rican born Cruz was on the defensive and he ate some flush shots upstairs while protecting his ribs.
In round five Cruz returned to his natural stance with renewed vigor. His jab was as crisp as it had been the entire night as he was once again moving forward behind it. A right hand up top sent Adjaho to the canvas. Adjaho was disputing the knockdown to no avail as referee Earl Morton administered a count. When the fight resumed, Cruz landed a big left hook that knocked Adjaho off his feet. There was no dispute as Adjaho again beat the count. Cruz went in for the kill and fired a flurry of shots as Adjaho was trapped against the ropes. With six seconds remaining in the round, referee Morton had seen enough and waved off the fight. The stoppage may have been premature, but Cruz deserves credit for going in for the kill when he sensed he had his opponent was hurt.
Cruz finished a perfect 2011 with a 5-0 record, and none of his opponents have heard the final bell. He has parlayed on October 2010 stoppage of former amateur star Jeremy Bryan to establish himself as a true prospect. Cruz may not possess the fastest hands in a loaded division, but his commitment to working the body and his temperament of always wanting to be the one that ends an exchange will only add to the fan base that traveled 2.5 hours to support him on Saturday night. With a new convention center set to open in in his hometown in March of 2012, Cruz’s profile will continue to grow.
Atlantic City native Decarlo Perez (6-1-1, 2 KO) returned to the ring less than two months after suffering his first loss as he took on the rugged Manuel Guzman (7-14-2, 3KO). Guzman was determined from the opening bell to bring a halt to a four fight losing streak and got inside to effectively smother Perez’s punches early. Perez was eventually able to create distance and land upstairs on the charging Guzman. Both fighters had their moments during the six rounds of action and in the end the judges unanimously favored the cleaner punches of Perez by scores of: 58-55, 57-56, 58-55.
Heavyweight Bryant “Bye Bye” Jennings took little time to improve to (11-0, 5 KO) by scoring a first round TKO in 1:51 against Kevin Franklin (3-4, 1 KO). Jennings landed a left-right combination that dropped Franklin into the ropes. Once Franklin rose, Jennings jumped on him and unloaded a flurry of punches that forced referee Randy Neumann to wave off the bout. Jennings is an athletic heavyweight who will be interesting to watch as his competition continues to improve.
Jason Pribila is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PribsBoxing.
November 19, 2011