By Cliff Rold
Cigar smoke filled the air, a call back to the era when thick tobacco clouds made grainy footage of legends like Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis even grainier.
In 2014, it was a sign of the good cause that drew high society to the fights.
Washington, DC’s moneyed elite, national celebrities, and some of the boxing greats came together for the 25th Annual Fight Night event on Thursday night. The event benefits Fight for Children, a locally based charity focused on education and healthcare programs serving low-income children.
The event marked the first time World titles have been defended at the event. The red carpet atmosphere was more akin to awards shows than a night at ringside.
It was both: black ties and evening gowns, spit buckets and ring card girls.
Hosted by Fox Sports personality Jay Glazer, those who were struggling to get to their seats were threatened with former Washington Redskins linebacker LaVarr Arrington coming to their table to “drink all their booze.”
As the crowd settled in prior to the opening bell, a Jay-Z infused video paid tribute to the “Legends of Boxing.” The lights dimmed and the featured legends entered the ring. Michael Buffer led a ceremonial ten count in honor of the late head of Fight for Children Joseph Roberts and then introduced the fighters in the ring.
Larry Holmes. Roberto Duran. Julio Cesar Chavez. Erik Morales. Aaron Pryor. Mia St. John. Gerry Cooney.
They took their bow, soaked in the cheers, and then the fighting part of Fight Night got underway.
Some in the crowd even watched.
The national anthems of the Philippines and Mexico almost brought a hush to the crowd prior to the main event. Onlookers in the crowd took their greatest interest in the night, spectators moving closer to the ring. They knew they were seeing a champion. They’d know more about him by night’s end.
26-year old Carlos Cuadras (31-0-1, 25 KO), 114 ½, of Mexico City, Mexico, made his second successful defense of the WBC Super Flyweight title with a sixth round stoppage of 26-year old Marvin Mabait (19-3-2, 13 KO), 115, of Zamboanga, Philippines. Cuadras scored a knockdown in the fifth and two in the sixth to secure the victory.
The referee was Eddie Claudio.
The first round was a tense feeling out session. It was highlighted by a pair of heavy exchanges, one early and one late, both won by Cuadras. Early in the second, the southpaw Mabait took a stiff jab and just missed on a hard left right cross. Cuadras dictated the pace from there, Mabait just missing the big left again before the bell.
Cuadras nailed Mabait with a flush right to kick matters off in the third. The challenger took it fine and remained right there in the trenches. Cuadras wore an expression that said he knew he was in a fight.
He fought like it in round four. Planting his feet and digging furiously to the body, Cuadras tried to back Mabait up. The Filipino stayed aggressive. He paid for it with seconds remaining. Relaxing in anticipation of the bell, Mabait was floored with a right hand but Claudio waved it off as a slip.
Mabait took heavy fire in the first minute of the fifth, stunned near the ropes with a left and right to the head. Another combination had Mabait reeling and Claudio ruled the ropes held him up. Jelly legged, Mabait took the count and reeled as he nodded to go on. The bell rang before Cuadras could finish him.
Immediately after the bell to start the sixth, a right hand from Cuadras sent Mabait to his back, sweat spraying the tuxedoed mass around the ring. Mabait again bravely rose but his night was a punch away from over. Cuadras felled him officially for the third times and Claudio stepped in to halt the bout at :36 of round six.
The crowd roared their approval at the knockout finish to the boxing portion of the night.
Cuadras breaks a frustrating streak of title fights ending by way of accidental cuts at two. He won his title with a technical decision in eight rounds in May against Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. His first defense, is September, was a technical draw in four rounds against Jose Salgado.
Mabait suffers his second consecutive stoppage loss. All three of his defeats have come via knockout.
In the co-feature, 26-year old Ava Knight (13-2-3, 5 KO), 112, of Las Vegas, Nevada, captured the vacant WBC Women’s Silver Flyweight Champion with a lopsided ten-round unanimous decision over 22-year old former World title challenger Lupe Martinez (7-8, 3 KO), 112, of Mexico City, Mexico.
The referee was Michelle Myers
A sizable gap in skill level was apparent from the opening bell as Knight worked Martinez with stiff jabs and nasty shots to the body. In round two, a left top the head wobbled Martinez, the challenger struggling to survive, much less compete. She made it out, and through the next two rounds as Knight patiently picked up points.
The crowd surrounding the ring was a mix of fight fans and charity fans, interested observers and well-heeled drinkers with their backs to the ring. They made an odd juxtaposition with the two women in the ring, one fighting to maintain her place near the top of her division and one gamely taking her licks in the hope of a miracle.
The cloud of cigar smoke thickened around and in the ring as the fight moved into the middle rounds, Martinez still standing through the haze. A left hand near the end of round seven nearly decked her again, but Martinez stood firm and made it to the corner as the announcement for the last ten minutes of the evening’s silent auction blared over the announce system.
After ten rounds, Knight was awarded the clear decision by three shutout scores of 100-90.
The opening bout took place for something billed as the “Fight for Children” championship. Undefeated 22-year old Middleweight Antoine Douglas (16-0-1, 10 KO), 160, of Burke, Virginia, made it two in a row since a draw in July with a six-round unanimous decision over 36-year old veteran Don Mouton (14-9-1, 12 KO), 160, of Houston, Texas. Douglas was accompanied to the ring by current WBO Lightweight titlist Terrence Crawford.
The referee was Malik Waleed.
Both men met at center ring in trunks adorned with the logo of the event’s primary sponsor, Under Armour. Douglas quickly took control, using the aggression of Mouton against him as he countered hard while working off the ropes. No matter where they were in the ring, it was typically Douglas in command. The taller, younger, sharper man battered him inside and at range for most of six rounds. Mouton gave a valiant effort but by the sixth and final round he had little left but to come forward and taste the sting of Douglas’s gloves.
Scores came in a shutout across the board, 60-54 for Douglas.
Prior to the start of Cuadras-Mabait, the crowd turned their attention to the ring as Under Armour representative Kevin Plank announced the events of the evening had raised 4.7 million USD for Fight for Children. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman joined him at center ring, along with Fight for Children’s Raul Fernandez, posing for pictures to celebrate a night well done.
At the end of the main event, the crowd was treated to a performance of the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins cheerleaders, a live auction, and a performance from Grammy and Tony nominee Michael Cavanaugh.
The party rolled on while the fighters showered before conducting interviews.
The 26th Fight Night is one year away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]