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19 OCTOBER 2018


Silvio Branco Shines On Italian Fight Night

By Peter Lerner: A canny counterpuncher in his mid-forties. Never out of shape and always ready to challenge younger fighters. An old warhorse who started out at middleweight and has battled his way up through the weights over the years. Could Silvio Branco be the Italian Bernard Hopkins?

Saturday night in his hometown of Civitavecchia he took a step towards his dream of being a champion at cruiserweight by outpointing Vincenzo Rossitto over 12 rounds for a minor WBC belt. A European title shot or a shot at the (and it hurts to write this) WBC Silver belt (for what it’s worth) could be on the cards next year.

This was a good match between two of the best in Italy at this weight (the other contender to that title being Giacobbe Fragomeni) and two fighters with 119 fights (and numerous contests at world and European level) between them. It was a close win for Branco, with the judges having it 117-112, 116-112 and 115-114. If a couple of the closely-contested rounds had been scored the other way, then Rossitto would have been the winner. Branco deserved the win but he had to work very hard and there were moments in the middle rounds when the momentum seemed to have swung the other way.

The basic pattern had Rossitto, with his trademark saggy belly, lumbering forward and trying to engage on the inside while Branco would stab away from behind his jab. When the action was in centre ring or away from the ropes, Branco was able to outmanoeuvre and outwork his opponent. However, whenever Rossitto bundled him to the ropes, Branco had a lot of difficulty fending him off and avoiding his hooks and strafing rights. Rounds three to six were particularly difficult for Branco. He often found himself under siege and smothered by the visitor from Sicily, and picked up two cuts in these rounds. By gritting his teeth and trying to hold his ground in the centre of the ring throughout the later rounds, he was able to stop Rossitto from converting that good spell into anything like dominance.

Branco is now 61-10-4 (37). With the right matchmaking and timing, maybe he could still have time to make a brief impression at cruiserweight – at European rather than world level. His biggest drawback at cruiserweight is that he no longer has the physical advantages – the uncanny reach and decent height – that he used to good effect at super middle and light heavy. By a stretch of the imagination, he would be able to call himself a four-weight world champion if he does win a title at cruiser: WBU champion at middleweight and super middleweight, and two-time WBA champion at light heavy (one time interim). Of course that would be an accolade that would fully reflect the absurdity which the words ‘world champion’ have in this age, an age in which belts and titles have no real meaning but just bring in money and create surreal trivia (“Which four-weight world champion did Richie Woodhall stop at the Telford Ice Rink?”). But that would be doing a disservice to Branco. He should be judged on the opponents he has fought over the last 20 years. This is a man who has fought at and around world level for 15 years in three different weight classes. His victims include Rossitto, Manny Siaca, Mehdi Sahnoune, Robin Reid, Glen Johnson, Verno Phillips and Thomas Tate. And he has never disgraced himself or been less than competitive in losing to Woodhall, Jean Pascal, Stipe Drews, Thomas Ulrich, Fabrice Tiozzo, Sven Ottke and Agostino Cardamone. There is no comparable figure in Italian boxing.

The other televised bout on the show was a gripping Italian title fight at lightweight between champion Emiliano Marsili and Pasquale Di Silvio, a former holder of the belt.

This was a nice mix of styles: Marsili is a raw-boned southpaw who can switch between steady, reserved boxing behind the jab and an aggressive attack based on his textbook straight left and lead right uppercuts; Di Silvio is an energetic bundle of two-fisted flurries.

At first it didn’t seem like Di Silvio would be able to get past the spiteful left hand and southpaw stance of the champion. Marsili just looked bigger and meaner, as though he had his mind set on being the boss. Realising he had to take he champion out of his rhythm, Di Silvio started to try and counter every Marsili left with his own right and, when possible, take the fight to close quarters. This made the fight more competitive but the problem was that even on the inside Marsili seemed the stronger man and the harder hitter. Furthermore, he answered every Di Silvio success with his own dogged responses. This was his backyard and he wanted to show it. He also had the sense to slow down the breakneck pace that Di Silvio had whipped up and confuse him with his hard southpaw jab and anti-clockwise movement. It was an intensity and adaptability the challenger was unable to match, and by round eight he seemed to have realised that a victory was beyond him. Whereas before Di Silvio had snarled and stared at Marsili at the end of every round, now he gave him respectful nods and smiles. This was now a man who would have preferred to see out the storm with his head held high rather than stand and shout obscenities and defiance into the wind and rain. Marsili duely got the decision, 100-90, 99-92 and 98-93.

The show-opener saw Neapolitan super feather Nicola Cipolletta move to 4-0-0 (2) with an easy yet uninspiring win over an unambitious Estonian, Sergei Tassimov. It was a very safe piece of matchmaking: the Estonian came in with a record of 9-33-2 and was significantly smaller than the house fighter (apart from being a full head shorter and weighing in at 4 pounds lighter, he was also a career bantam). The long-limbed and loose Cipolletta picked up a clear decision win (60-54 twice and 60-55) by pecking away with right hands at an opponent who rarely pressed and who must have thrown about than half a dozen meaningful shots in eighteen minutes. The winner was unimpressive simply because he failed to exert any real pressure or try anything new over the course of the fight.

Solid-looking cruiserweight Mirko Larghetti finally got the stoppage he had been swinging away for all fight when referee Marco Marzuoli waved it off in the sixth and final round. His opponent, Jevgenijs Andrejevs, was not happy with the intervention – as he stepped out of the ring he made a rude gesture to Marzuoli and went straight to the dressing rooms. He didn’t wait around for the official verdict. Larghetti had hit him with just about everything he had over the course of the fight and if his technique had been better – his punches are largely arm punches and his doesn’t get much torque into his work – he would surely have got the stoppage much more quickly. Larghetti is obviously a strong man and naturally aggressive but he could do with some refinement, especially with regards to his punching technique and balance. Still, it was good to see him going about his work with gusto and trying to make an impression. He is now 10-0-0 (7) while Andrejevs drops to 6-35.

Also on the bill was Gianluca Branco. Seemingly retired after his loss to Matthew Hatton, he reappeared here to take on Semjons Moroseks in a six rounder. Despite being a step down from the likes of Arturo Gatti and Miguel Cotto, it was nevertheless an entertaining fight. Moroseks was willing to have a go with long right hands and some wild swings in the exchanges, and Branco, not being what he once was, had to work hard at times.

Moroseks entered the ring with the word ‘Semen’ written across his trunks, presumably a variation on the spelling of his first name. His entertainment value did not end there. Everytime Branco caught him he would grin or openly laugh sat him, wiggle his hips or even backpedal across the ring smirking away. He mixed his clowning with some good, aggressive punching, often catching the veteran. Branco for his part seemed rather frustrated by it all, but he stuck to his job and by the fifth Moroseks was no longer smiling but grimacing. He was happy to hear the final bell.

Branco is clearly not the fighter of the early part of the decade. Looking portly for this fight (he weighed in at a couple of pounds over the welter limit), his mobility and reflexes were limited, and he took a long time to put Moroseks in his place. His class was of course apparent. As always he wasted very little, feinted to create openings and chose his shots well. It remains to be seen how much ambition he has left and how long he wants to continue in the sport. He is now 44-3-1 (22). Moroseks drops to 8-14-1 (2).

November 28, 2010

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