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29 JULY 2014

 

Shame and surprises in Rome: Italian round-up.


Ernesti in action against Blandamura (pic Isabella Foderà)
Ernesti in action against Blandamura (pic Isabella Foderà)

By Peter Lerner: It must have been too much to hope for two consecutive nights of competitive, enjoyable and at times enthralling boxing without anything going wrong. It was already worth celebrating the fact that there were two nights of professional boxing in one week in the Italian capital. Something had to blight it and unfortunately the first night of boxing was marred by racist chanting from some sections of Pasquale Di Silvio’s fans. It was truly disgusting and ruined what had been a fine evening of modest but keenly-fought bouts.

Both bills were held in the Palafijlkam in Ostia, a coastal town on the south-western fringes of the city. It’s one of the more suggestive settings for boxing around the capital. This arena, which is usually used to host international martial arts and wrestling tournaments, looks like an alien mushroom planted in the middle of the no-man’s land between the sea and the pinewoods. This is an area of closed beach clubs, wide roads, fields and sad-looking apartment buildings. When the often spectacular sunsets fade away and the young couples go home, prostitutes linger in the shadows, creepy-looking men cruise past slowly and a cold wind whips in off the sea.

Friday night’s event (promoted by Davide Buccioni) saw the more important fights and, in the Emanuele Blandamura-Manuel Ernesti clash, an intriguing clash of local unbeaten prospects which developed into a minor classic. Blandamura managed to turn common opinion on its head and bully his supposedly stronger and more hurtful opponent and win a rousing twelve-round decision.

This was domestic boxing at its spirited best: neither boxer letting up for a moment, do-or-die exchanges from the first round to the last and a deafening, primal atmosphere. Like the brief Simone Califano-Pasquale Di Silvio firefight of three years ago or this summer’s Davide Dieli-Califano clash, it proved that a local derby between two hungry domestic-level fighters can be just as exhilarating, if not more so, than much bigger events.

Ernesti was the fighter with the pedigree. He’d done more as an amateur, had received more hype and looked to be blessed with more ability than his rival. Blandamura, on the other hand, was regarded as a good mover, sharp, but with little substance to his work. The common consensus was that Ernesti would walk his opponent down and eventually break him with his spiteful, snappy punches. Instead the fancy powder-puff boxer mauled and smothered his opponent. Apart from a moment at the end of the first round when Ernesti caught Blandamura with a counter straight left and seemed to briefly freeze him, Blandamura dictated the pace. And what a pace he set. Deciding that he had to take the rangy, dangerous Ernesti out of his comfort zone, he stayed on top of him, pinned him on the ropes and in the corners and whaled away for much of the contest. The ferocity and the intensity of his pace were at moments reminiscent of the 200mph assault that Ricky Hatton laid on Kostya Tszyu. What was totally surprising was that, apart from what in retrospect seemed like an angry day at the office against Ferenc Olah two years ago, he had never showed even one round of the sort of war he waged for twelve on Friday night. In fact, at times he’d seemed rather reluctant to commit himself against even the most toothless of journeyman foes. Here he happily took the occasional whipping hooks and jolting uppercuts that Ernesti managed to fire back while under siege, and each time continue his assault undaunted. Particularly effective were his straight right hands, often thrown up out of a crouch, and his underestimated body attack. It was a left hook to the body that made Ernesti touch down with one glove in the ninth and put the contest beyond all doubt. The final scorecards were 116-110, 116-111 and 115-111.

Blandamura is now 16-0-0 (3) and the talk is of a challenge for the Italian middleweight title against Matteo Signani, a capable fighter who is getting better with age. This was a real eye-opener from Blandamura and with this performance he has made himself one of the fighters to watch on the domestic scene. Ernesti also deserves credit. Throughout the fight he was trying to turn the tide and still managed to come out for the final round with the energy and desire to look for a knockout. His ring intelligence and his ability to make best use of his obvious assets (height, accuracy and fluid switch-hitting) will need to be worked on but he certainly showed that he has character. He drops to 10-1-0 (5).

Another suprise came on the undercard with feather-fisted Massimiliano Buccheri knocking out Adnan Salihu with a left hook from nowhere in the last round of their super middle six-rounder. He’s now on something of a roll since coming back from injury: in June he beat favoured Daniele Moruzzi and here he scored his first stoppage in thirteen attempts. He is now 11-1-1 and Salihu 7-3-0.

In the other two fights on the bill, featherweight Alessandro Vitturini outpointed Gianluca Mancinelli over four rounds and Orial Kolay shockingly walked through Andrea Moretti in two rounds. Vitturini was a decent amateur (he was regularly the regional champion) and was making his debut. Moretti looked like he froze as soon as he came under pressure in his bout.


******
As already mentioned, the previous night’s bill was spoilt by racist chanting from Pasquale Di Silvio’s fans during his six-round points win over Johnny Antequera (all three judges had it 59-55). The ’monkey’ chants and noises directed towards Antequera from a good dozen or so of Di Silvios’s fans (including women and children) were sickening to hear and see. Not only is such behaviour abominable in itself but it also obviously damages the sport (only the boxing-addicted would not think long and hard before going to see Di Silvio again; a curious newcomer would surely - and understandably so - stay away from the sport in the future) and Di Silvio himself.

The highlight of the night was seeing Jose Luis Graterol, a Venezuelan who had been inactive for five years, upset home fighter Emiliano Salvini over six rounds. There was something almost magical in seeing this rusty, uncertain fighter creak back into life just in time to nick the decision. In the first couple of rounds he looked very much a fighter who was trying to shake off five years of cobwebs. His footwork was unsure, he was often off-balance and his timing hadn’t turned up for the night’s work. And then, miraculously, with each passing minute the years started to roll back and he slowly straightened up, stood his ground and began stalking Salvini. Now the crouching, almost furtive survivor had become a tall, stringy hunter possessed by the ghost of Sandy Saddler. Each passing round saw the pressure ratcheted up until in the sixth Salvini was getting caught by every punch in the book. This was a round which could very easily have been given 10-8 in the visitor’s favour. Considering that he’d taken the first three rounds to get going and that another visitor, Cristian Amado, had been robbed in the first fight of the evening, it was a pleasant surprise when Graterol was awarded a split decision (58-56 twice for him and once for Salvini). There had been mention of Salvini challenging fellow Roman Davide Dieli for the Italian featherweight title but any such ideas must surely be scrapped after this setback. He drops to 13-15-1 and has lost nine of his lost ten. Graterol moves to 14-8-4.

The aforementioned Amado, an elusive hands-down Spaniard, seemed to have done enough to get the verdict against home fighter Patrizio Manzoli. He out-thought Manzoli, who couldn’t really lay a glove on him, and provided enough sharp counters to win at least four of the six rounds in my opinion, yet the judges gave it to Manzoli by scores of 59-55, 58-56 and 57-57. With this little-deserved victory the winner is now 3-0-0 while Amado is yet to win at 0-1-1. The fight was made at welterweight.

The three fighters in the blue corner - Antequera, Graterol and Amado - all had Guillermo Mosquera helping out in the corner. Although he lost to Michael Katsidis and Jan Bergman (when Mosquera was already getting on in age), he holds a points win over Lovemore Ndou. He’s one of the great travelling fighters of recent years. This Colombian never actually fought in Colombia. Instead he fought on foreign fields such as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Venezuela, France, Kazakhstan, Curacao and South Africa. It was good to see him still in fine shape at 46.

It was interesting to discover that Antonio Del Greco, the vice president of the Italian Boxing Federation, accompanied Amanda Knox through Fiumicino Airport as she prepared to depart Italy. His other job is Head of Security for all the airports in central Italy. He told Secondsout that he managed to make her laugh as they made their way through the airport, but he didn’t say whether it was due to one of his jokes or one of his trademark pinstripe jacket-white trouser combinations.

*******

This has also been a week of some success for Italy on an international level. In the biggest fight this week, Giuseppe Laganà won the vacant EU flyweight title with a seven-round technical decision over seasoned Frenchman Bernard Inom in Sardinia. The visitor was cut in the sixth round and referee Mark Green stopped the fight during the seventh. The scorecards were 68-65, 69-64 and 67-66 in favour of Laganà.

In the World Amateur Championships in Baku Italy finished with two bronzes and five fighters qualified for London (six including Clemente Russo who qualified via the World Series). The bronzes were picked up by Vincenzo Mangiacapre at 64kgs and Domenico Valentino at 60kgs. The other three fighters who managed to qualify were Vincenzo Picardi (52kgs), Vittorio Parrinello (56kgs) and Roberto Cammarelle (91+kgs).

Hopefully this will augur well for the upcoming world title challenges of Andrea Sarritzu (against Moruti Mthalane on 28th October) and Devis Boschiero (against Takahiro Ao on 6th November).

October 8, 2011


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