By Jake Donovan
Ivan Redkach was tested every step of the way by Tony Luis, only for the final scorecards to suggest he was assured victory all along.
The unbeaten lightweight was well deserving of the unanimous decision in the Shobox main event Friday evening at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tennessee. However, scores of 97-92, 97-93 and especially 99-90 weren't at all in line with what took place in the ring over 10 hard-fought rounds.
The bout served as the main event of the 2014 season premiere of Showtime's 'Shobox: The New Generation' series, topping a televised quadruple header that saw the series return to it's roots after a brief detour towards exchanging favors for showcase appearances.
All eight fighters on Friday's card were making their respective debuts on the series. In the main event in particular, Redkach and Luis never stopped trying to get the best of one another in a punishing affair that was unfortunately marred by poor officiating on both sides of the ropes.
Both fighters should have been credited with knockdowns in the opening round. Redkach was more than a 10-1 favorite entering the fight, but Luis was clearly a man on the mission from the opening bell. The Canadian boxer found Redkach's chin all too inviting, scoring repeatedly early on and even connecting hard enough to force the unbeaten lightweight to touch his glove to the canvas.
Somehow, referee Randy Phillips missed the knockdown but was in proper position to rule Luis down by contact when a sweeping right hand connected on his chin late in the round. Redkach landed the shot in reactionary mode, catching Luis in motion as a combination of the punch's force and its direction guiding the once-beaten prospect down to the mat. Because of the blown call earlier in the round, Redkach won the frame 10-8 on two of the three scorecards.
The sequence hardly deterred Luis, who was the aggressor for most of the first half of the contest. Redkach's defense was nonexistent as he repeatedly ate power shots. Luis' lack of punching power proved his greatest deterrent, as his hard work early on proved for naught.
Redkach brawled his way back into the fight, stunning Luis early in round six but failing to close the show. A clash of heads put the bout in jeopardy, as Luis was left with a cut high on the forehead producing a steady stream of blood. The wound was never a factor, and - oddly enough - the sequence allowed him to briefly rest and attempt to clear his head.
Tide shifted back and forth in round seven, with Luis enjoying pockets of success before giving ground to his harder punching opponent. Redkach sealed his opponent's fate with a strong showing in rounds eight and nine, only to have to endure one last stand from a stubborn Luis in the tenth and final round.
Terrific two-way action down the stretch brought the crowd to its feet. It may not be the type of round that's remembered during year-end awards season, but the pain both fighters endured over the final three minutes will remain with them through weeks of much needed rest and rehabilitation, all for the amusement of the crowd on hand and those watching at home on Showtime.
The wide scores offered by the three judges weren't quite enough to ruin an otherwise entertaining affair, but certainly didn't serve justice to what took place in the ring.
Redkach advances to 16-0 (13KO), though the transplanted Ukrainian has a long way to go before living up to ring idol Miguel Cotto. Complete with a tattoo across his chest and torso serving as an exact match to the one sported by the Puerto Rican superstar, Redkach entered the fight with every intention of making a splash.
Instead, he proved to be a work in progress, all while serving as a source of resuscitation in Luis' career. His record now at 17-2 (7KO), the visiting Canadian proved himself worthy of additional airtime despite entering the evening as a massive underdog and perceived cannon fodder.
The loss ends a modest two-fight win streak, though Luis undoubtedly leaves Memphis with a valuable learning experience and potential confidence boost for his foreseeable future. Similarly, Redkach's victory takes a back seat to the in-ring knowledge gained over the course of the 10-round affair - that while he may one day evolve into a shining star, there exists a long road ahead.
That they learned those lessons against each other brings the long-running Shobox series full circle, which made Friday's season premiere a much-welcomed return to its roots.
The chief support saw the lone knockout on the four-fight telecast. Frank Galarza awoke the crowd in a big way while putting John Thompson to sleep. A left hook in the opening seconds of round two was enough to produce a highlight reel knockout, leaving the audience, fans at home and the panel at ringside eager to see him again, and as soon as possible.
Thompson expected to box his way through the early rounds, with the plan to bank rounds against the less polished Galarza. What the slick boxer didn't count on was his opponent's natural aggression to shine through so early in the contest.
Galarza made a lot of new fans early in round two, connecting with a two-punch combination to put Thompson down and out. A right hand froze 24-year old Newark native, with a left hook sending him face first to the canvas. Thompson was still kissing the ring mat as the referee counted him out.
The official time was 2:46 of round two.
The win is by far the biggest of Galarza's young career. The 28-year old Nuyorican improves to 12-0-2 (8KO), shining bright in his Shobox debut and just his third fight outside of New York.
Thompson suffers his first pro defeat, falling to 14-1 (5KO).
Antoine Douglas never came close to fulfilling his pre-fight knockout guarantee. However, the Virginian managed a dominant eight-round decision win over Marquis Davis in a matchup of unbeaten middleweights.
The grunting Douglas controlled the fight for the majority of the eight rounds. Davis played the role of willing opponent, but struggled to keep up. Douglas' inability to find a second gear made for a relatively monotonous affair until the final moments of the fight, when the 21-year old unloaded in hopes of a memorable ending.
He was instead forced to settle for a landslide decision. Scores of 80-72 (twice) and 79-73 all landed in favor of Douglas, who advances to 12-0 (7KO). Davis, stepping way up in class, falls to 8-1-2 (5KO).
Unbeaten super lightweight Maurice Hooker saw a strong start rapidly dissolve in the eyes of two of the three judges as he was held to an eight-round majority draw versus Abel Ramos in the televised opener.
Scores were 77-75 Hooker and 76-76 (twice).
Hooker came out smoking, dominating the inexperienced Ramos, who came in unbeaten but also accepting assignment on short notice and never fought beyond four rounds in any given prize fight to date. The disparity in skill and experience was apparent for much of the first half of the fight as Hooker landed at will while taking little punishment in return.
However, Ramos' resilience paid major dividends down the stretch. Hooker managed to gas himself by the seventh round, at which point Ramos - fighting outside of his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona for the first time - stepped up the pace.
The tide turned in a big way, with Ramos enjoying his best moments of the fight in the final six minutes. Hooker avoided disaster, mustering up as much strength as he had left to offer one final rally in the closing seconds.
Despite the late fight collapse, a close but clear victory seemed apparent for Hooker. The 24-year old Texan learned the hard way the price of failing to close the show, as Ramos' late shoe shine was enough to convince two of the three judges to render the bout a stalemate.
Hooker moves to 12-0-1 (9KO); Ramos is now 8-0-1 (4KO).
All four bouts aired live on Showtime.