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18 NOVEMBER 2018


Esposito Successfully Defends Italian Title

By Peter Lerner in Italy: On Friday night in Ceccano, a small town tucked away under the low mountains that lead from Rome down towards Naples, Samuele Esposito made a successful first defence of his Italian light welterweight title, stopping challenger Marino Bucciarelli in the fourth round.

There were shades of the final moments of Margarito-Cotto as Bucciarelli, after having been knocked down and then subsequently slipping down twice without a punch being thrown, effectively surrendered by going down voluntarily as Esposito advanced towards him. Referee Vincenzo Garruto had little option but to wave it off.

Esposito came to his opponent’s hometown for this one, just as he had when winning the vacant title back in September against Alfredo Di Feto. He gives the impression of being a fighter who is not easily fazed. This sawn-off blaster (at about 5’3” or 5’4” he is short for a light welter) did what he had to do, and he did it simply and with impressive single-mindedness.

Going in, nobody had any doubt about what the dynamics of the fight would be: Bucciarelli would attempt to keep Esposito at arms length using his height, reach, movement and holding where necessary, while the champion’s task would be to walk him down and get to him. Would Bucciarelli have the composure, toughness and ability to pull this off? Would Esposito be able to get through often enough to win the fight or would he be shown up as a one-dimensional slugger?

We got the answer in the very first round. Esposito made his mark towards the end of the round with some heavy hooks. It was apparent from the grimaces on Bucciarelli’s face in the subsequent clinches that he didn’t like those punches.

In the second round Esposito had the challenger on very shaky legs in his own corner. Bucciarelli made it through thanks only to persistent and rather blatant holding, much to the consternation of Biagio Zurlo in Esposito’s corner. The next round allowed us to see some of Esposito’s limitations. He may be single-minded, heavy-handed and deceptively good at cutting off the ring but he’s not always the best finisher. He spent the round marching forward and swinging for glory without putting much thought into what he was doing. This defect was apparent two years ago in his breakout win over Danilo Valerii in Ostia. Just as on that occasion it didn’t matter though, because the damage had already been done and it was apparent that every landed punch had an effect on the delicate-looking Bucciarelli.

Esposito had him down immediately at the start of the fourth from a looping right hand-left hook combination. Bucciarelli was up at five but there was an expression of reluctance and uncertainty on his face. He immediately slipped to the floor as Esposito came in. And then again. It was obvious that he was shaken beyond recovery. By now there were cries from Bucciarelli’s own supporters for the towel to be thrown (or the sponge, as the Italians say “gettare la spugna” – throw the sponge in). Then came that strange ending as he effectively opted out of the contest.

Sometimes watching a hometown hero being beaten and humiliated in such a way in front of his fans can be the saddest thing to see. Before the fight, films were shown on a big screen of Ceccano’s last boxing hero, Domenico Tiberia (who fought Gratien Tonna and challenged Koichi Wajima for the WBC light middleweight title). In a small country like this everybody seems to know everybody, and it seemed that everybody had turned out for the fight, young children and mums included. Some had brought along their own homemade banners. It was easy to pick out the relatives and friends of Bucciarelli. And it was easy to pick up the strange sense of hope mixed with trepidation amongst the people, almost as if they knew beforehand or had become afflicted by Bucciarelli’s insecurity. He’s been stopped before and the difference between him and the champion during the ring entrances was stark. The braided, almost frail Bucciarelli looked like he was trying to psyche himself up while Esposito just looked mean. During the fight there were shouts of “That’s right, that’s what you need to do” for every little thing Bucciarelli tried to do. It was almost like a boy being encouraged during his first swimming lesson. When he went down for the fourth time and the fight was called off, you could feel and even see the hurt amongst the people. One little boy burst into tears. There doesn’t seem to be much future for Bucciarelli. He got stopped up at welter by Walter Fiorucci (who’d had just one fight at the time) and if he carries on fighting at Italian title level, it is almost certain he’ll get stopped again. With his loose guard and inability to stay off the ropes he doesn’t seem to have a fighter’s survival instincts.

Esposito on the other hand guarantees excitement. He comes into fights on a mission to dish out punishment. It remains to be seen how far he can go or if he will prove to be one-dimensional at a higher level. It would be good to see him in with Pasquale Di Silvio if ‘El Puma’ does move up to light welter, or even with an up-and-coming undefeated fighter like Michele Focosi.

Esposito is now 7-1-0 (4) and Bucciarelli 7-4-0 (4).

On the undercard featherweight Michele Crudetti moved to 3-0-0 by outpointing Gianluca Mancinelli, welters Alessandro Barrale and Stefano Trabucco drew over six rounds, and Sven Paris returned to the ring after almost two years out with a six round points win over Lajos Orsos (who had a fine record of 1-24-1).

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