By Ryan Maquiñana
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Entertainment mogul Michael King’s inaugural card opened with the pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony.
Perhaps the presence of the UCLA Marching Band belting out R&B classics gave the the initial impression that King Sports Worldwide was giving boxing the old college try, but the Barker Hangar suddenly transformed into Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
Between the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones squeezing every drop of reverb out of his electric guitar for the national anthem and actor Kevin Pollak grabbing the mic for ring announcer duties, it became readily apparent that this was no ordinary club show.
Hell, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns were spotted sitting together ringside, with the legends undoubtedly reliving their treasure trove of memories in the ring.
In a battle of undefeated heavyweight prospects, Charles Martin (16-0, 14 KOs) of Carson, Calif., knocked out Alexander Flores (14-1, 12 KOs) of Rowland Heights, Calif., in the fourth round with body/head combination that saw a right hook deck Flores for the count. Official time was 1:14.
Former WBO middleweight champion Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (30-1, 18KOs) won a ten round unanimous decision over Fulgencio Zuniga (26-9-1, 23KOs). N'Dam was dominating the fight and seemed to be on his way to a knockout victory after four completed rounds, but then it appeared that he injured his left hand in the fifth and started exclusively working with the right. N'Dam easily outboxed him the rest of the way. All three judges scored it 100-90. After the fight, N'Dam revealed that he ruptured his left bicep.
Chris van Heerden (21-1-1, 11 KOs), outworked seasoned veteran Ray Narh (26-5, 21 KOs) by split decision over 10 solid rounds.
The clash was mainly fought on the inside, as Van Heerden, of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Narh, of New York by way of Accra, Ghana, put their heads down and traded offensive spurts throughout an even first three rounds.
However, in the fourth, the southpaw Van Heerden began to emerge with the more accurate shows in the exchanges, namely with the left uppercut and looping left up top. The orthodox Narh, for his part, tried flicking his left jab and loading up on right hands, but could not get them around Van Heerden’s guard.
Narh finally shifted course in the seventh stanza, throwing lead straight right hands to the body in hopes of getting Van Heerden to put his hands down. The strategy was effective, as Narh scored downstairs and followed up with the occasional left hand to take his first frame since the early stages.
The eighth and ninth rounds were close. Both fighters’ punch volume increased. Narh began finding space for his left hook after throwing the 1-2, while Van Heerden scored with the right hook and lunging left hand to the ribcage. Narh captured both those rounds.
The final round was a spirited three minutes, and while Narh landed several volleys, Van Heerden’s pressure and accuracy with the left cross gave him the frame in this scribe’s eyes.
Scores were 96-94 twice for Van Heerden, overruling a 97-93 tally for Narh.
Cruiserweight Yunier "The KO Doctor" Dorticos (17-0, 17 KOs) of Miami via Havana, Cuba, was in the middle of a competitive fight when he decided to abruptly end things in the fourth round with one screaming right hand down the pipe that put Eric Fields (24-3, 16 KOs) of Ardmore, Okla., on the canvas for good.
The bout began with fireworks. Merely a minute in, Fields floored Dorticos with a short left hand as they traded bombs in the center of the ring. Dorticos rose to his feet and seemed to be fine; the Cuban would return the favor with a few seconds left in the frame. A right cross from Dorticos dropped Fields with a bit more impact. Fields recovered, but it was evident that this fight would not go the distance.
Dorticos turned the pressure on in the second stanza, but could not cut off the ring from Fields, whose strategy was to use his feet and box his way out of trouble. However, Dorticos finally found a remedy to the situation at the end of the fourth, when a left hook and right uppercut upstairs, followed by a 1-2 to the jaw rocked Fields and banished him to the ground. Referee Jack Reiss could have counted to 15. Official time was 2:59.
Louis Rose (10-1-1, 3 KOs) of nearby Lynwood, Calif., ran his unbeaten streak to six with an eighth-round stoppage of San Antonio’s Emanuel Ledezma (12-2-2, 2 KOs) of San Antonio, Texas.
Ledezma, who was riding his own 10-bout string without a loss, fought mainly off the back foot, something Rose used to his advantage. Feinting his way in and slipping Ledezma’s 1-2, the Californian couldn’t miss with a garden variety of left hooks upstairs and to the midsection.
The underrated Rose, who impressed on Fox Sports One last year in a controversial draw with Paul Mendez, continued his assault in the fourth round, knocking Ledezma’s mouthpiece out with a crisp looping right hand.
Rose controlled the action throughout the bout, and though it looked as if Ledezma would make the finish line, another sharp right hand over the top wobbled the Texan. Ledezma barreled into the ropes but returned fire sparingly as Rose poured it on.
Ultimately, one more counter left hook sent Ledezma stumbling into the ropes, where the referee began the count. Ledezma remained upright, but he referee ruled he could not continue and stopped the fight at 2:58.
Follow Ryan Maquiñana on Twitter @RMaq28.