By Cliff Rold
Look at what happend with Mauricio. Mauricio is not a puncher and I think he won that fight. [Algieri] doesn't have a lot of power but he boxes very well. He is a skillful boxer. Don't be surprised if Algieri ouboxes him.
27-year old Willie Monroe Jr. (17-1, 6 KO) of Ithaca, New York, the nephew of one-time Middleweight contender Willie “The Worm” Monroe, started off fast and never really looked back on Friday night at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, earning a commanding eight-round decision over the favored and previously undefeated 30-year old Vitaliy Kopylenko (23-1, 13 KO) of Keiv, Ukraine, in the semi-finals of the Boxcino Middleweight tournament.
Both men scaled 160 for the contest. The referee was Benjy Esteves Jr.
In the first two rounds, the southpaw Monroe fought edgy to his better, using his superior speed to stop Kopylenko from getting anything going and turning the more experienced man into a plodder. Pinning his left to his cheek, Monroe rendered Kopylenko’s right hand impotent and worked the Ukrainian to the body in close to keep him off balance. Relaxing a bit in the third, Monroe stayed on his game plan, raking with eye catching straight lefts to build an early lead.
Kopylenko found some offense in the fourth, touching Monroe with single shots but still taking the big counters as he came forward. Kopylenko dislodged Monroe’s mouthpiece with a right hand and Monroe got it back after an awkward exchange saw him shoved to his knees. Kopylenko closed the round with a right hand, Monroe replying with a left.
Another awkward tumble to the mat resulted in a stern warning to a Kopylenko continuing to work back into the fight. A massive right hand rocked Monroe and again sent his mouthpiece flying. Before Kopylenko could test his legs, a clash of bodies creating a break in the action to Monroe’s fortune. Kopylenko landed another right that got Monroe’s attention before the bell.
Round six was relatively low contact, Monroe using his legs and landing the best shots of the frame in the final minute. In the final two rounds, it was Monroe building on his lead, taking the token desperation right but more often starting and finishing exchanges while dictating the tempo of the affair. As it headed to the judges, the winner appeared little in doubt.
The obvious became official at 78-74 and 79-73 twice, all for Monroe who moves on to the Boxcino Middleweight final. Interviewed after the bout, Monroe said, “I’m underrated…I can out speed and outthink these guys.” He stated he’d not seen the earlier semi-final but would review it and be ready for May 23rd.
In the final, he’ll find another young, hungry hopeful who has maturing through the course of the first two tournament rounds.
In the evening’s first semi-final, 24-year old Brandon Adams (14-0, 9 KO), 161, of Los Angeles, California, used an accurate right hand and smart feet to earn an eight-round split decision over 29-year old Raymond Gatica (14-3, 9 KO), 158, of Austin, Texas. There were no knockdowns in a clash between fighters who both scored knockouts in the quarterfinal round. The referee was Don Trella.
Adams started out trying to shake hands and took a shot to the mush for his trouble. It was a quick start to an otherwise measured first couple of rounds. The southpaw Gatica fought tall and stalked while Adams slowly opened up, seeming to realize his speed edge in the ring and increasing the use of his right hand.
A firefight in the corner in round three turned up the action, Gatica leading and Adams responding with hard shots of his own. A couple more skirmishes marked the round, neither man having seized a telling advantage yet at the bell. Adams came off the ropes a minute into the fourth with a pair of right hands to drive Gatica back and used precise counters to hold the edge as the round wore on. With thirty seconds to go, Adams buckled Gatica with a right hand but the Texan kept his feet.
Adams started round five with a pair of classic 1-2 combinations and continued to use his right hand to build a lead. With a minute to go, Adams used the shot to rattle Gatica again but Adams stayed on his game, composed and willing to let the fight come to him.
Gatica attempted to turn the tide in the sixth, catching Adams with a left uppercut against the ropes. Adams took the shot well and bounced back with a right to move the fight back to mid-ring. The fight stayed largely to form from there, Adams working the right and some smart, short lefts. Gatica opened up in the seventh and eighth with some whipping salvos to the body but, at the final bell, it was a blasting Adams right that laughed last.
Despite Adams evident superiority in the ring, Gatica didn’t leave unrewarded with one card favoring him at 77-75. It was overruled by twin scores of 78-74 for Adams.
Asked after the fight about going past the fourth round for the first time in his career, Adams said, “It was exciting, something totally different than I’m used to.” Speaking through the joy of a post-fight, post-training camp Snickers bar, Adams responded to a question about coming back again in five weeks for the finals. “It’s going to be a test, but it’s a test we have to overcome.”
There was a time when five weeks was a pretty ordinary layoff for a fighter with less than twenty fights. Adams, uncut and with both eyes open. He should be fine.
Prior to the first semi-final, fans were treated to a clash between aspiring Heavyweight hopefuls. It didn’t last long but it was memorable.
28-year old Nate Heaven (9-0, 7 KO), 233, of Ocala, Florida had no amateur career and he’s not doing much to log rounds yet as a professional either. Heaven used a single massive right hand with moments left in the first round to knock 26-year old fellow undefeated prospect Donovan Dennis (9-1, 8 KO), 226, of Davenport, Iowa, silly. Dennis beat the count but was wobbly, falling into referee Dick Pakozdi as the count tolled eight. Pakozdi called it with time expired on the frame. The official time of the stoppage was 3:00 of round one.
The card was broadcast on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Banner Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]