By Keith Idec
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Izu Ugonoh appeared to be well on his way to an impressive knockout victory in his American debut Saturday night.
Dominic Breazeale bravely battled back from serious trouble, however, to ruin Ugonoh’s dream of becoming a legitimate heavyweight contender in a nationally televised fight on the Deontay Wilder-Gerald Washington undercard. Ugonoh credited Breazeale for his toughness, yet the powerful prospect feels he blew his huge opportunity more than Breazeale denied it.
The 6-feet-3, 230-pound Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KOs) lost by fifth-round knockout after the 6-7, 263-pound Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs) dropped the unbeaten but unproven Polish fighter twice during that round. The last knockdown sent Ugonoh through the ropes, and onto the ring apron.
Breazeale, who also floored Ugonoh in the third round, overcame a fourth-round knockdown to pull off a dramatic comeback at Legacy Arena.
“I expected that I was going to knock him out,” Ugonoh said. “I believed I would accomplish that, but he didn’t surprise me with anything. I was landing some good shots to both his body and his face.
“Breazeale showed a lot of heart, though, and I think that his experience really helped him. I think a fight like Anthony Joshua really helped him realize that he could take anything and win the fight. He did that [Saturday night].”
The chiseled Ugonoh looked like he was in much better shape than Breazeale, yet it was his heavier opponent that was able to withstand all those punishing punches and win the fight. The 30-year-old Ugonoh had boxed beyond five rounds in just three of his first 17 professional fights, and it showed Saturday night against an opponent whose lone loss came against the hard-hitting Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs).
Ugonoh seemed to have punched himself out, despite that the scheduled 10-round fight hadn’t even reached its midway mark.
“Honestly, I just got tired,” said Ugonoh, who’s a stablemate of WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. “I gave him what I had and then I got tired. When he came back at me, I wasn’t able to keep up and finish through on my game plan.
“The plan was to really use my double jab, and I’m not making any excuses. This is the fight game. This was a great opportunity for me, a big step up, and I was hoping to get it done. I didn’t, but that is part of sports. I’m not used to losing, but that time came [Saturday]. I’m still a dangerous man to fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.