By Keith Idec
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Dominic Breazeale bravely saved his boxing career Saturday night.
Seemingly on the verge of being knocked out in a second straight fight, Breazeale battled back to knock out powerful Polish prospect Izu Ugonoh in the fifth round of a scheduled 10-round heavyweight fight at Legacy Arena. Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs), who was dropped in the fourth round and dealt with swelling around his left eye, floored Ugonoh twice in the fifth to pull off a remarkable comeback against an intriguing but unproven opponent who wanted to record a knockout in his debut on American soil.
Breazeale blasted a tiring Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KOs) with a right hand that sent Ugonoh to one knee early in the fifth round. A disoriented Ugonoh got up, but Breazeale promptly drilled him with a left-right combination that knocked Ugonoh through the ropes and onto the ring apron.
Referee Jeff Dodson stopped the entertaining, back-and-forth brawl 50 seconds into the fifth round.
“He has all the heart in the world, man,” promoter Lou DiBella said from ringside regarding Breazeale. “If you don’t respect that kid, wow! I thought he was done. Everyone thought he was done. I think [Ugonoh] thought he was done. I think that was the problem. That’s why you fight the fight. That’s what guts and heart is all about. That was a tremendous performance.”
The win was one Breazeale badly needed following a seventh-round technical knockout loss to unbeaten IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) in his last fight, June 25 at O2 Arena in London. The former Northern Colorado quarterback was considered a significant step up in competition for Ugonoh, but Ugonoh was more than a 2-1 favorite entering a fight FOX televised as the opener of a tripleheader.
The 6-feet-3, 230-pound Ugonoh, a stablemate of newly crowned WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker, was winning the fight impressively until the 6-feet-7, 263-pound Breazeale connected with a right hand that knocked down a reckless Ugonoh late in the third round. Ugonoh was stunned and didn’t seem as though he would beat the count.
Ugonoh got up, though, and was landing bombs to Breazeale’s head shortly thereafter. One of Ugonoh’s right hands left Breazeale holding tightly and both boxers crashed to the canvas. They continued trading power punches once they got up in what emerged as incredible round of action.
Recovered from that third-round knockdown, Ugonoh drilled Breazeale with a right hand to the side of his head with just over a minute left in the fourth round. Breazeale tried to hold on, but fell to the canvas.
Breazeale survived the round, though Ugonoh appeared to have regained control of the fight. As soon as the fifth round started, Breazeale, sensing Ugonoh had perhaps punched himself out, attacked his opponent and dropped him twice.
The loss was a huge setback for Ugonoh, who signed with influential manager Al Haymon after his second-round knockout of Gregory Tony (22-7, 16 KOs) on October 1 in Manakau City, New Zealand. The former kickboxer had won 14 of his first 17 fights, but against a modest level of opposition.
Before FOX’s broadcast began, Los Angeles-based heavyweight Iago Kiladze (25-1, 17 KOs) dropped overmatched Bryan Polley (30-20-1, 13 KOs, 2 NC) twice on his way to a first-round knockout of the journeyman from St. Joseph, Missouri.
In the previous bout, Junior Fa, a heavyweight prospect from New Zealand, remained unbeaten by stopping Keith Barr in the third round of a scheduled six-rounder.
Fa, who improved to 10-0 and recorded his seventh knockout, floored Barr once in the second round and twice in the third before their fight was stopped. Barr (17-11-1, 7 KOs), of Glenville, West Virginia, lost for the fifth time in his past seven fights.
Also on the non-televised portion of the undercard, former Cuban Olympian Robert Alfonso (11-0, 4 KOs) knocked down Keith Thompson (8-5, 4 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, three times on his way to a first-round technical knockout in a heavyweight fight scheduled for six rounds.
Earlier Saturday night, Tuscaloosa’s Deon Nicholson (2-0, 2 KOs) needed just 40 seconds to demolish Josh Rasberry (0-1), of Bessemer, Alabama, in a cruiserweight fight scheduled for four rounds. Nicholson drilled Rasberry with a right hand that left him crumpled in a corner and resulted in his first-round TKO win.
In another undercard fight Saturday night, middleweight Thomas Knox (2-0, 2 KOs), of Northport, Alabama, beat Anthony Retic (0-1), of Homewood, Alabama, by unanimous decision in a four-rounder (40-36, 39-37, 39-37).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.